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					                      TABLE OF CONTENTS




               EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT)........... 35


               IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES.....................101

               STORYTELLER............................... 114
               ........................................ . 140

               TRICKS TO PLAY ON YOUR STUDENTS............150



               MMM, MMM, MMM, MMM... GET A WHAT???? . . . 197

                             CHAPTER I


    When I teach my introductory history classes, I start

out with an energetic sales pitch:

         Welcome to the most wonderful, most interesting,

    most exciting, and most important course offered at

    Northern State University.       I know every one of you is

    thrilled to be here today.       And why are you thrilled to

    be here?   Because history, I am sure, is for every one

    of you your very favorite subject.

    By the time I finish my first three sentences, most of

the students are laughing.    Why?    Because, for many of them,

history is not only not their favorite subject, but one of

the subjects they liked least in high school--ranking a

little below detention, though perhaps a little above math.

    There are good reasons for this.       Many students

experience in high school leads them to believe that history

is nothing more than a boring combination of dull lectures,

duller reading assignments, and meaningless work sheets.      For

some of them, the only thing they learned in their high

school history classes was to hate history.

    Some of my students, on the other hand, had a very

different experience in high school.      They had perhaps the

kind of history teacher who told them story after story,

stories about Napoleon, George Washington, Joan of Arc,

Savanarola, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, or any of the

hundreds and thousands of fascinating figures of history.

The students who were fortunate enough to have a teacher like

this usually remember much of what they were told years

later, and most of them come into my class already liking


    Most of you who read this book probably had at least one

or two teachers who made social studies interesting and

exciting.   You are probably already convinced that history

and social science courses are important.    But can we

convince others, particularly our students, that the classes

we teach are worth the effort?    I think that we can, that we

can convince them that what we teach really is the most

wonderful, most interesting, most exciting, and most

important of all subjects, and that they truly ought to like


    What do we have to offer students?     What reasons can we

give them for liking history?    First of all, our subject is

inherently interesting.   History includes everything that has

happened for the past five thousand years.    Certainly with

five thousand years of material to draw on, it should be easy

to come up with plenty of fascinating things to talk about!

Social science (or social studies) is obviously even broader

in scope.    It includes virtually everything that has to do

with mankind--not only the "proper" study of man, but the

most interesting as well.

    Another reason for liking history is that it improves

one's sense of humor.    Consider for instance the following

story, a story I often tell my students on the first day of


            The people of ancient Sumer had to worry constantly

    about invasions.    To protect themselves, they built huge

    walls around their cities.    The walls were not only a

    source of protection, but a source of pride to the

    people of the city.     One of the Sumerian kings, the King

    of Uruk, decided that his city needed a new and better

    wall.    He got the best architects available, the best

    building materials available, the best craftsman

    available, and began construction of the most

    magnificent wall ever built around a city state.    The

    project took years, but at last it was almost complete.

     The people of Uruk decided to hold a great ceremony to

    dedicate their new wall, and as a special honor, they

    decided to ask the King himself to put the last brick in


            The wall dedication was a magnificent ceremony.

    Thousands of people were there: priests, nobles, common

    people, ambassadors from neighboring city states--all

    wanted to be a part of the great celebration.      Finally,

    there came the great moment.      The King advanced,

    carrying the last brick.      But when he got to the place

    the brick was supposed to go, he discovered it wouldn't

    fit.     He turned it upside down.   It still wouldn't fit.

        He turned it sideways.   It still wouldn't fit.    He

    tried shoving it as hard as he could.      It still wouldn't

    fit.     Finally, he got so mad, he took the brick, threw

    it over the wall into the river, and the brick sank.

    Few of my students think that story very funny.        I

promise them, however, that it really is a funny story, and

that if they stick with my history class long enough, they'll

understand why that story is so hilarious.     And, believe it

or not, they eventually do see why that story is funny--

though perhaps you don t.    In any case, if history can make

us laugh, that's reason enough for liking the subject.

    The most important reason for liking history, however,

is the one given by Francis Bacon: history makes us wise.

That's a pretty strong statement, though I think that it is

true.    The study of history does make us wise--or at least


    In order to understand this, it's useful to go back to

the beginning of the discipline, to the great father of

history, Herodotus.    Herodotus was the first to use the word

history as we use it today.    He borrowed a legal term,

historia, which simply meant an inquiry or an investigation.

       Herodotus' History is an investigation of a question

that must have puzzled many Greeks of his time: how had the

Greeks been able to defeat the Persians during the Persian

War?    The Persians were wealthy.   They controlled the largest

empire the world had ever seen. The Greeks were poor and

disunited, usually fighting among themselves.    The Persian

army and navy were many times larger than anything the Greeks

could put together.    The Persians had defeated nations

seemingly much more powerful than the Greeks, including the

Egyptians, the Lydians, and the Chaldaeans.     Yet when the

Persians fought against Greece, the Greeks won--not just

once, but again and again, at Marathon, at Salamis, at

Plataea, and at Mycale.    How had this happened?

       Herodotus realized that the answer was a complex one,

and that, in order to come up with the answer, one had to

find out a great many things about both the Greeks and the

Persians.    One needed to know about the political systems of

the people involved, about their religious and social

institutions, and about the geography of each region.      Thus

in trying to answer his question about the Persian War,

Herodotus ended up drawing on all the social sciences, and he

might well be called not just the father of history, but the

father of cultural anthropology, political science, and

geography as well.   Along the way, Herodotus collected some

fascinating stories, among them the story of the ring of


         Polycrates was the ruler of Samos, an Aegean

    island.    He was wealthy, powerful, healthy--everything

    seemed to go his way.    His friends were somewhat worried

    by this, figuring that the jealous gods would never

    allow any human being such a streak of unbroken good

    fortune.   Polycrates too began to worry, and so on the

    advice of his friends, he decided to contrive a

    misfortune on his own lest the gods do something much

    worse to him.    What he decided to do was to "lose" his

    most prized possession, a magnificent ring, the symbol

    of his authority.    He took the ring down to the sea and

    heaved it as far as he could into the waves.    He was

    sorry to lose the ring of course, but he figured he

    could now enjoy the rest of his good fortune without


         A short while later, a fisherman casting his nets

    off the coast of Samos caught a magnificent fish.     On

    reaching shore, he rushed right to the palace, convinced

    that such a fine fish was fit only for a man like

    Polycrates.     The cook, seeing the magnificent fish,

    dropped his original supper plans and cooked up the fish

    for Polycrates.     The servant brought the fish in to

    Polycrates on a gold platter.      It looked and smelled

    delicious, but as Polycrates cut into it with his knife,

    he felt something hard inside.     You know what it was, of

    course.   A brick.

    Not funny?    Maybe not, and even with Herodotus' real

ending to the story (Polycrates' ring inside the fish) it

might not seem to have much relevance to history.      Today's

professional historians are usually critical of Herodotus'

use of such stories.     But whether or not they accord with

actual historical fact, Herodotus' stories get to the essence

of what history and social studies is about: human beings

confronted with forces beyond their control and attempting to

deal with those forces as best they can.

    Herodotus saw clearly what the purpose of history and

the social sciences truly is: not just the gathering of

immense amounts of data, but an attempt to answer the great

questions of life: What kind of government is best?      Why do

nations go to war?    Why is the relationship between men and

women what it is?    What causes poverty and wealth?    And the

biggest of all questions: why are we here?

    In one of the final scenes of King Lear, Lear himself

stands naked in the middle of a storm, raging against the

elements.    He asks an important question: "Is man no more

than this?    Consider him well."

    Is man no more than a naked beast raging against forces

beyond his control?    Or is he something more?   We can hardly

claim to have considered this question well without a solid

foundation in the disciplines that study man and society, the

social sciences.     If we do address these questions in our

classes, if we do show our students that social studies

addresses some of the biggest questions in life, we have gone

a long way toward making our discipline what it should be,

everybody's favorite subject.

                               CHAPTER II

                        WHO WE ARE/WHO WE TEACH:


         If you ask any group of teachers who the worst teachers

  they ever had were, the usual answer is their professional

  education teachers.     Nearly everyone complains that they

  didn't get much out of their professional education classes.

   While the people who quote the line "Those who can't do,

  teach, and those who can't teach, teach teachers," seem to be

  jesting, often enough they really mean it.1

         Why is it that professional education teachers so seldom

  do a good job?    It is not necessarily (and not even usually)

  because they are bad teachers.     Some of them are even

  excellent teachers--when teaching anything other than

  education classes.     Unfortunately, the professional education

  teacher is trying to teach something that is difficult, if

  not impossible, to teach by traditional teaching methods,

  methods that work perfectly well for other subjects.

         Why is this?   The reason becomes apparent as soon as one

  attempts to classify "teaching" as a learned skill.

  Education teachers rightly say that there are three primary
      The full current version is, "Those who can't do, teach;
those who can't teach, teach teachers; those who can't teach
teachers write books about teaching teachers; those who can't
write books about teaching teachers go into administration."
Administration, here I come!

aspects of learned activity: the cognitive, the affective,

and the psychomotor.

    What kind of a skill is teaching?     Cognitive?   Yes, but

not in the way one expects.    A teacher can know everything

there is to know about his subject and still be a failure as

a teacher.   Being an expert in your field is no guarantee you

will be able to teach others.

    Is teaching affective then?    Again, the answer is yes,

but not in the way one expects.    One can genuinely love one's

students and one's subject and still not be an effective

teacher.        Is teaching a psychomotor skill?   Certainly

there are psychomotor skills useful to teaching, but one

could perfect every psychomotor skill imaginable and still

not be a good teacher.

    Good teaching is based, not on any easily taught

cognitive, affective, or psychomotor skills, but on one's

ability to create appropriate relationships between oneself

and one's students.    Unfortunately, while good teachers are

always able to build these kind of relationships in their own

classes, it is all but impossible for them to teach others

how to do so.   The reason for this is that we all relate to

people differently.    A good teacher has always found a way of

creating relationships that works for him or her, but that

method won't necessarily work for anyone else.

    Making the matter especially tricky is the fact that we

don't naturally get along well with everyone.    Most of us in

high school identified with one particular type of student,

choosing our friends mostly from the group whose values and

interests were most like our own.    Some of us were cowboys,

others jocks; some of us were motor heads, others druggies;

some of us were preppies, others Jesus freaks.    For most of

us, there was at least one other type of student that we

really disliked--maybe the jocks, maybe the druggies, maybe

the Jesus freaks.   The bad news is that (though the names may

have changed) all of these types are still around, and, if

you are going to be a successful teacher, you are often going

to have to be able to build good relationships with the kind

of people you might naturally dislike.

    Fortunately, there are some basic tricks to establishing

good relationships that work for most teachers with most

types of students most of the time.    One thing that usually

works is humor.   Generally, teachers who make their students

laugh have little difficulty gaining their attention and


    Humor is especially important when it comes to diffusing

potential conflicts.   Discipline mixed with humor (gentle

humor!) is especially effective.    In his film "Molder of

Dreams," former national teacher of the year Guy Doud notices

a student with a big wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth

entering the classroom.    Doud stops him with the advice, "If

that's your breakfast, you better swallow it before you come

into class."   Few of us can improvise lines like this, but we

don't have to.    Most discipline situations can be

anticipated, and, with a bit of thought, one can prepare

exactly the right kind of lines for many of the problems you

are going to confront.

    Another key technique often used by teachers who are

successful in establishing good relationships is the ability

to share themselves, particularly to share their struggles

and weaknesses.    Often we try to hide our weaknesses from our

students, thinking (perhaps) that they will lose all respect

for us if they see us making a mistake.    The opposite is

often the case: students relate better to teachers who they

can see have struggled with some of the same problems that

confront them.    Admitting that one finds certain texts or

historical events hard to explain or understand, and

admitting one doesn't know the answers to questions, or

admitting that one has made a mistake usually strengthens a

teachers rapport with students rather than the reverse.      They

don't have to think we know everything!

    Probably the most important step in establishing good

relationships with our students is to demonstrate to them

that we truly care about them as individuals.   The admonition

that "students must know how much you care before they care

how much you know" may have become trite, but it is usually


    Part of the trick here is that, to be effective in the

classroom, teachers must not only care about their students,

but also demonstrate their concern.   This is fairly easily

done.   Learn the names of your students as quickly as

possible.    Find out a little about their families.   Ask them

questions about things important to them--and the next time

you talk to them show them you really care by asking follow

up questions about things they talked to you about before.

    We also demonstrate our genuine concern for students by

tying the material we present in class to things they are

interested in already, and by designing our courses so that

they help meet fundamental needs in students' lives.     What

kinds of things do junior/senior high school students think

about and care about?    What kinds of things do they need, or

at least think they need?   A partial list might include the


  1. Establishing/maintaining a loving relationship with a
member of the opposite sex.

 2. Finding some way to deal with pain in their lives.

 3. Establishing independence/personal autonomy.

 4. Gaining the approval of their peers.

 5. Gaining the approval of a respected adult.

 6. Finding a cheap cure for acne.

    Most students care about deeper issues as well.      They

are concerned about the economic and political situation of

our country.   They worry about crime, about violence, and the

breakdown of families.   Many are beginning to reject the

religious training of their earlier days, and are eager to

explore alternative religious traditions.

    What educational discipline deals with these kinds of

concerns the most?   Algebra?   Chemistry?   Band?   P.E.?

Obviously, none of the above.    It is clearly the social

sciences that have the most to do with subjects students care

about most.    It is to political science, sociology,

psychology, anthropology, and (above all) history that one

must turn if one wants answers to the deepest questions one

might ask about life.

    Social science teachers are often embarrassed by

questions about the purpose of their discipline and are

somewhat defensive in response to questions about why our

classes should be part of the curriculum.     It seems to some

that social sciences are simply a frill area that might

easily be cut out without major damage to the educational

system.   Unfortunately, this is the attitude of many

administrators and school board members who, from their

hiring practices, clearly indicate their belief that having a

winning football team is far more important than a quality

social sciences program.

            It should be clear, however, that in some ways our

discipline is the most important, the one discipline that

addresses most of the major concerns of our students

directly, the one discipline that is primarily concerned

about human relationships, justice, economics, and with the

meaning and purpose of life.    This gives us a tremendous

advantage in making our material interesting to students.

All we need to do is to take issues students already care

deeply about, use these concerns as a springboard to the

social sciences topic we are presenting, and finally to jump

back from our topic to the problems that confront our

students in their own lives.

    In the 60's and 70's, teachers were constantly told that

we had to make our teaching relevant, that students had to

see how the material they were studying applied to their

"real" lives.    True enough: we do need to make our teaching

relevant.     Further, as we make our material relevant, we

make ourselves relevant, the kind of teachers that can have a

lasting, positive influence on our students.

                              CHAPTER III

                     ONCE AROUND THE RACE COURSE:


         Probably some of those reading this book are a little

  frustrated by now.    For a book that promised to be practical,

  there has been far too much theory and not enough real

  training on how to teach.     Please be patient!   Most methods

  texts are far worse--the whole book is theory.      Further,

  there is a reason for this.    It really is necessary to

  clarify some basic theoretical questions before moving on to

  what one actually does in the classroom, and though I would

  much rather move ahead to lectures, discussions, and       fun

  classroom activities, it is necessary first to discuss one

  more theoretical area, curriculum development.

         Curriculum is a fancy sounding word, the kind of word

  often utilized by educators (though not used by teachers, who

  know better).2   The word curriculum come from the Latin

  currus (chariot).    A "curriculum" was a small chariot, most

  often a racing chariot.    In time, the Romans came to use the

  word for the race course in general rather than the chariots

  that circled it.    Planning curriculum, then, is to lay out a

  race course--and there is hardly a more appropriate word to

      What's the difference between an educator and a teacher?
Generally, an educator focuses on the process, a teacher focuses
on students.

describe what we actually end up doing in deciding what we

are going to teach our students.

    Curriculum in its more general sense includes everything

your students study throught the course of their school

years, including English and math as well as history and the

social sciences.   Usually, beginning classroom teachers do

not have a chance to do much about the overall curriculum of

a school or district.   But you usually do have to determine

the curriculum for each class you teach, to set up the small

segment of the race course in your charge.

    Ideally, the state or the district should give you

curriculum guidelines for each class you teach.   These

guidelines should include both the overall goals your

state/district has for the students in your class as well as

specific guidelines for course content that will enable your

students to reach these goals.

    At one time, state and district curriculum guides were

extremely useful in helping an instructor plan his/her

course.   Notice the clearly stated objectives and content

guides contained in a South Dakota curriculum guide of twenty

years ago (pages 27-28).   Such a guide was exceedingly

helpful to the teacher trying to plan a course for the coming


    Today's curriculum guides are much less helpful.

  Typical is the chart on page 29, taken from one of the most

  recent South Dakota curriculum guides.     Although objectives

  and course content are still included in the guide, the

  format of the guide makes it all but useless to the classroom

  teacher.3   As a result, teachers must develop their own

  curriculum for every class they teach.

         Now there is a very easy way to do this.   Get a good

  textbook for your course with good supplementary materials

  (e.g. Perry's     History of the World), turn to the table of

  contents--and there it is!    Your curriculum for the coming

  year!    Complete with supplementary materials, work sheets,

  multiple guess exams, overheads, and even computerized

  learning games!

         It's exceedingly tempting to take this route in

  designing and teaching your courses.     Let the professional

  textbook publishers design your course for you.     Let them put

  together the exams and work sheets.     Let them come up with

  supplementary materials.     After all, they have the time and

      Help is on the way, however. The Center for Civic
Education s National Standards for Civics and Government is an
excellent guide to the kind of things that ought to be taught in
K-12 government classes. These standards are available by
writing to the Center for Civic Education, 5146 Douglas Fir Road,
Calabasas, CA 91302-1467. Current price for a single copy is
$12.00. It's also worth taking a look at the much-critized
National Standards for History, available through the National
Center for History in the Schools, University of California, Los
Angeles, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 761, Los Angeles, CA 90024-

resources you don't.    They can test the effectiveness of

their materials on thousands of students.    They can get

dozens of professional historians to check their materials

for accuracy.    Surely they can do a better job deciding what

your students ought to be doing than you!

    Except that they can't.     Any teacher who does nothing

but rely on the materials produced by a textbook company

turns their "race course" into a marathon of boredom.       Why?

Why do courses taught "by the book" end up so deadly dull?

Why can't even the best supplementary materials do much to

enliven such classes?

    There are two obvious reasons for the failure of

textbook-centered curriculum.    One is that, as noted in

chapter two, teaching depends on establishing appropriate

relationships with one's students.    Textbook companies can do

nothing at all to help you establish those kinds of

relationships.    Further, depending on the textbook often

actually makes it harder to establish the kind of

relationships that really work.    The textbook, rather than

the teacher, soon becomes the authority and source of

knowledge in the classroom--an exceedingly bad thing for true


    The second reason textbook-centered curriculum fails is

that it puts the cart before the horse.    Dependence on work

sheets and multiple choice exams ends up making your students

focus primarily on isolated facts rather than larger themes.

    Now the learning of facts is vital to the study of

history and the social sciences, and any good teacher helps

their students master a great deal of factual information.

But it does no good at all to have students master what to

them are random, unrelated, and irrelevant bits of


    Before students are set to the task of learning great

quantities of information, it is important they know why the

facts they learn are important.   Teachers must give them

clear goals for the class, or, perhaps better, a set of

particular questions they are trying to answer.

    Consider the following lines:

         1. And imagine what it did to the dishes.

         2. Only one, but the bulb has to want to change.

         3. So his wife had him cremated.

         4. Because when ice cream melts, it doesn't leave

         any bones.

    None of those lines is at all interesting.    But attach

each line to an appropriate set-up:

         1. Primitive women didn't have it so good.     They

         had to wash by going to the river and beating

         things on a rock.   It was hard work.    And imagine

         what it did to the dishes!

         2. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a

         light bulb?   Only one, but the light bulb has got

         to want to change.

         3. A man had no life insurance, but he did have

         fire insurance.   So his wife had him cremated.

         4. What's the difference between an orange?

         Because when ice cream melts it doesn t leave any


    Well, they're still not very funny, but at least the

lines may draw a chuckle or two.   The point is that even the

funniest punch line fails unless put in proper context.

    Likewise, the most important historical facts are

meaningless unless put in the context of larger human

questions.   Good social science/history teachers start, then,

not with the textbook, but with some great overall theme (or

themes) for each course they teach.

    Now the better textbook companies do suggest appropriate

themes in their supplemental materials.   However, for best

results, it is better to come up with your own themes,

ideas/goals that will make the course truly your own.

    As an example, I discuss briefly below the themes for

one of the large survey classes I teach at Northern, History

of Civilization I (World Civilization to 1600).

    This class covers the most important trends in human

civilization from the Sumerians and Egyptians through the

Reformation, a period of over 4500 years!   As a unifying

theme, I borrow Henry Bamford Parke's suggestion that, in

order to survive, a society must provide three things to its

members: physical security, ethical guidance, and emotional

fulfillment.   I try to make sure that my students know how

each society we discuss provided these three essentials.

    My chief emphasis in the course is on ethics.     I am

concerned with the breakdown of morality in our own society:

the increase in violent crime, the loss of any sense of

economic justice, unprecedented levels of dishonesty at every

level, the horrible treatment of women, and, especially, the

break-up of the family.   I am also concerned about the

apparent inability of our religious, political, and

educational institutions to deal with these problems.     Most,

maybe all, of my students share these concerns, and because

of this, they are at least somewhat interested as we examine

societies that faced similar problems.

    Once I had determined the general theme for the course,

it was easy to decide on sub-themes for each of the

individual civilizations discussed and to decide what

specific figures and events were most worth emphasizing.

Coming up with questions for the exam was also easy: the sub-

  themes for the individual civilizations became the exam


         Once you have established your goals and decided what

  topics you are going to cover, then it's time to look at the

  various teaching materials available.    You are likely to find

  that some of the supplements, audio-visual materials, and

  even the work sheets of the textbook companies are worth

  using.    But you'll also know when they're inappropriate and

  when it's better to use material of your own.

         Finally, it's time to arrange the material you want to

  cover into some sort of a schedule, to decide how much time

  each topic gets and when you are to address each topic.

  There are several different ways of going about this, but I

  would suggest the following steps:

         1. Get a copy of the school calendar for the academic


         2. List each instructional date available for your class

         in order both by date and day of the week.

         3. Divide your material for the semester (or quarter)

         into several "units," each unit centering around some

         important theme or topic.

         4. Decide how much time to spend on each unit.4

      It's aesthetically appealing to break up the semester into
roughly equal blocks of time for each unit: three weeks on a
subject, then a test; three weeks on another subject, then a

test; three weeks on another subject, then a test.   There's no
real reason, however, not to include units of very different

         5. Write unit plans for each unit, stating clearly your

         goals for the unit and listing the activities that will

         help you reach those goals.

         6. List the topics, activities and assignments for each

         day of the unit on your schedule.

         At Northern, we prefer that our education students state

  both their unit plan goals and their daily lesson plan goals

  in terms of student outcomes.5         All this means is that you

  introduce your goal with the words, "The students will be

  able to. . ."       (conveniently abbreviated by the clever

  acronym TSWBAT.       Some examples:

         1. TSWBAT identify at least three causes of the American

         Civil War.

         2. TSWBAT explain the difference between primary and

         secondary sources.

         3. TSWBAT locate on a map the important rivers of India.

         4. TSWBAT supply the date of six major civil war


         5. TSWBAT name the most important industries of South

         East Asia.

         6. TSWBAT listen to a full fifty minutes of lecture

         without falling asleep.

      The word "outcomes" is an educationese monstrosity, but we
may be stuck with it for a while. Any ideas for something

    7. TSWBAT use TSWBAT terminology in writing their own

    lesson plans.

    I wasn't impressed with the TSWBAT format when I was

first introduced to it, but it does have its uses.    First of

all, it makes it really clear when our goals are trivial.    Do

we really care if our students know the exact dates of

battles?   Or are we just wasting their time and ours?

Secondly, it does tend to make us focus a bit more on our

students themselves and what they are supposed to be getting

out of our classes.

    When setting student goals, especially unit goals, don't

forget the general skills our students should be learning in

social science: the ability to read charts, graphs, and maps;

the ability to read and summarize information; the ability to

identify strengths and weaknesses in an author's argument;

the ability to take information gathered by others and mold

it into an original creation of one's own.

    Now all of this (deciding on the purpose of your course,

coming up with your own themes, choosing material to fit

these themes, and writing unit plans and daily lesson plans)

may seem like a lot of work.   It is!   But it's well worth the

time spent.   Taking the time to plan and make your course

truly your own will make your classes both more interesting

and more rewarding for you and your students.

    Remember also that work done well is worth saving and

using again.    Create for yourself an organized system where

you can easily find materials when you want to use them and

you'll save yourself a great deal of time and trouble.

    Another way to avoid trouble is to anticipate

emergencies.    It is particularly important to have a set of

emergency lesson plans ready for a substitute teacher in case

you have to miss class.    It's best, of course, when the

substitute can simply carry out your scheduled plan for that

day, but sometimes (e.g. when starting a new unit) this

doesn't work.    Please don't leave the substitute "busy work"

material.   "Show a film" is not generally a good lesson plan

for a substitute either.    The students generally know when

the material they are given isn't important, and they give

the substitute a hard time--and you'll have headaches to deal

with when you get back.

    One last bit of planning advice.     It's important to take

into consideration the physical arrangement of the classroom

when preparing activities.    Some activities work best with

traditional rows of desks; others need a different

arrangement.    For some activities, you may need a different

type of facility all together.    Providing and maintaining an

effective environment for the activities you choose is one of

the most important parts of planning.

    Even with the best of planning, it's hard to escape the

feeling that you and your students are running a race.   But

with a well planned curriculum, you at least end up racing in

the right direction and have a reasonable chance of reaching

the finish line.

Objectives goes here.

Units here.

New curriculum here.

                           CHAPTER IV



    During my freshman year of college, I fell in love with

the theater.    I worked on more than twenty different

theatrical productions as a stage hand or actor, often

working on two or three productions at the same time.        It was

a lot of work, but I enjoyed every minute of every

performance--except, of course, for     Saturday matinees.

    Actors dread Saturday matinees.      For some reason, the

Saturday matinee audience tends to be cold and unresponsive.

 Plenty of people show up, but they don't laugh at the jokes,

applaud feebly if at all, and generally portray the attitude,

"We are not amused."

    It is extremely uncomfortable to be on stage in front of

an audience that does not respond.      As a result, most actors

develop some techniques for waking up the audience,

techniques that fit into the general category of shtick and


    Shtick and tricks are devices an actor carries with him

from play to play.    Often, they have very little to do with

the script.    Because of this, "pure" actors and directors

tend to frown on their use, and it's probably not appropriate

(and certainly not necessary) to use such tricks with

Shakespeare.   But less scrupulous actors and actresses have

saved many a third-rate play and movie with their bags of


    Comic actors especially tend to have a repertoire of

tricks for getting instant response.     Jerry Lewis' pratfalls,

Groucho's raised eyebrows, and Stan Laurel's tears worked

effectively again and again.   Another effective trick is the

falsetto accents used by Monty Python's Flying Circus.      Read

aloud the following dialogue in your normal voice.

    DR. A:      Oh, look--there's a penguin on the television


    DR. B:      What's it doing there?

    DR. A:      Standing.

    DR. B:      No, No.   I mean, where did it come from?

    DR. A:      Perhaps it escaped from the zoo.

    DR. B:      No, no.   Then it would have "Property of the

                Zoo" stamped on it.

    DR. A:      They don't stamp animals.    How would they

                stamp a great lion?

    DR. B:      They stamp them when they're small.

    DR. A:      But what if it molts?

    DR. B:      Lion's don't molt!

    DR. A:      Yes, but penguins do.    See--I run circles

                around you logically.

    Now unless you have an odd sense of humor, you probably

don't find this very funny.   Now read the same dialogue with

a high, squeaky falsetto.   It's amazing the difference one

little trick makes!

    What has all this to do with teaching?    What does it

have to do with creating an effective classroom environment?

 Plenty!   The social studies teacher is frequently playing to

Saturday matinee type audiences--often to six of them a day--

audiences that are cold, unresponsive, and hard to be won

over.   Fortunately, some of the same tricks that work for

actors on stage can work equally well in helping you win over

your students, to help you overcome that "we are not amused"

attitude and to get involved with the material you are



    In a traditionally-designed theater, there is a great

arch over the front of the stage, the proscenium arch.

Beginning actors are told that, when they are on stage, they

are to ignore everything that goes on on the other side of

the proscenium arch.

    In general, this is good advice.   Looking directly at

the audience and reacting to what goes on in the audience

breaks the illusion one is trying to create and can spoil the

play.   But experienced actors know that, while breaking the

proscenium arch is usually a mistake, there are times when

deliberately breaking the arch is very effective in

increasing audience involvement.    Particularly when playing

to children, an actor can make his performance special and

memorable by mixing with the audience at just the right time.

    There are several ways in which a social studies teacher

can use this principle:

1. Breaking abruptly from the lecture mode

    U.C. Davis Professor Stylianos Spyridakis is one of the

best at using this principal to good effect.    Spyridakis is

an excellent lecturer.    However, being a non-native speaker

of English, he occasionally still stumbles over the

pronunciation of a word or two.    When he does, he steps out

of lecture mode, makes fun of his mistake, corrects himself,

and then plays games with overly exaggerated "correct"

pronunciations, putting on his best "Oxford" accent and

telling students the word should be pronounced "thusly."     By

the time he is done, the students are laughing, they've had a

short break from note-taking, and Spyridakis has their extra


2. Touch

    The proscenium arch is broken most dramatically whenever

an actor comes into actual physical contact with the members

of the audience.   For some reason, the appropriate use of

touch builds a sense of rapport between audience and actor

difficult to achieve in any other way.

    Salespeople and church leaders know the value of touch.

 Some companies train their cashiers to make sure their hands

actually touch the customer's hand when making change.

Pastors often schedule a moment during church services when

they ask those in attendance to shake hands.    Why?   Because

they know (whether consciously or unconsciously) that little

is more effective than touch in breaking down aloofness and

helping people to feel a part of the service.

    Given the times we live in, touching one's students can

lead to problems, and one has to be careful.    Some students

rightly resent touching as an invasion of their private

space.   But touch is too powerful a technique to give up

completely, and there are a couple of ways touch can be used

without creating problems.

    Handshakes and "high fives" are both appropriate uses of

touch.   Giving a student a "high five" for a particularly

good answer is both appropriate and effective.    I use "a

hearty handshake from Dr. Art" as a no-value prize in certain

situations, e.g. when I want students to attend a campus

event but don't want to give them extra credit.    I get extra

mileage out of the handshake shtick by playing it up in two

different ways: sometimes by exaggerating how wonderful it

 is, but more often by exaggerating how awful it is     ("Eeyueu.

  I was touched by a history professor.    I hope it's not

 contagious.    I better go wash.").

        Touch between students is also effective.   For instance,

 when discussing the feudal oath, I have the students pair up

 and go through the motions of the oath-taking ceremony.       One

 student in each pair is the vassal, the other the lord.       The

 "vassal" places his hands together, while the "lord" covers

 the vassal's folded hands with his own.    This simple trick

 makes the whole discussion of the feudal oath and its meaning

 far more memorable.

 3. Students as visual aids

        Students themselves make very effective visual aids.

 Using students in this way is really breaking the proscenium

 arch in reverse, taking the audience into the "actor's"


        I use this trick every chance I get.   When discussing

 the flagellants, for instance, I get a long line of students

 marching through the classroom, crying out about their sins

 and pretending to whip one another.    When discussing Zeno's

 paradoxes, I have a student help me recreate the race between

 Achilles and the Tortoise.6

      The paradox involved here is a paradox of motion. Achilles
is a very swift runner. He is about to race a tortoise, but the
tortoise is given a head start. How long will it take Achilles

to catch the tortoise? Zeno reasoned he can never catch the
tortoise. Why? Because in order to catch the tortoise, Achilles
must first race to the tortoise's starting point some distance
ahead. This will take some time, and the tortoise will have
moved along to a new location. Achilles will now have to reach
the tortoise's new location. This will take some time, and the
tortoise will have moved a long to a new location. Achilles will
have now have to reach this new location. This will take some
time, and the tortoise will have moved ahead to a new location.
How long will this go on? Forever, according to Zeno, and
Achilles never will catch the tortoise.


      Another trick for increasing interest in your class is

to make light of your subject and yourself.    You can

exaggerate how much they hate history, how horrible it is to

be in your class and to have to do the kind of things they

are asked to do.    Better yet, exaggerate how much they hate

you personally.    U.C. Davis professor Bill Bowsky had this

trick down to an art.    He developed an incredibly funny and

effective paranoid shtick that he used to fill time while

waiting for students to answer his questions.    ("You all hate

me.   That's why you won't answer.   You know the answer, but

you like making me feel uncomfortable standing here waiting.

 You're trying to drive me back into therapy.")

      Now the interesting thing about the paranoid "you hate

me and my class" routine is that (unless the students really

do hate you and your class) they will go out of their way to

show that they really are interested and that they do like

the class--even though they know the routine is not serious.

      You can also get lots of mileage by exaggerating the

value of your class.    For instance, in my classes students

occasionally have to learn some unfamiliar words like

"defenestration."    I point out to them that, when they go

home, they can use such words to impress their parents and

make their folks glad to fork over tuition money for another

semester.    My classes also deal with some rather strangely

named historical figures, e.g. Phye (pronounced "fooey"),

Snefru, and Xenophantes (which means "funny looking").    When

I get to one of these oddly named characters, I point out an

added value to my class: you get some great ideas for naming

your children.    Finally, several of the things I mention in

class are helpful to know when playing Trivial Pursuit.    When

this happens I tell my students how smart they will look when

they get a question like "What was Tycho Brahe's nose made

out of?" and they can say, "Well, the card will probably say

gold, but I happen to know that it was actually made out of a

combination of gold, silver, and copper."

    I get the most mileage, however, by telling students

what a wonderful place my class is for sleep.    I point out

how warm the classroom is and how comfortable the seats are.

 I also tell them the story of how I became a history


    For years, I used to read to my little sister every

    night at bedtime.    One day, just before dropping off,

    she said to me, "Art, you have the most beautiful voice

    for putting people to sleep."    It was at that moment I

    knew I should be a history professor.


    While a nice, soothing, soporific voice may have some

use in the classroom, it's good to have some other types of

voices to go with it.     The best lecturers usually have a few

character voices for occasional use--a student voice, an

administrator voice, a parent voice, etc.       Professor Bowsky

was especially effective with his student voices.        I have

stolen one of his characters and invented one of my own, both

of which are extremely handy in certain situations.

        The first student voice (stolen from Dr. Bowsky) is

extremely high pitched and excited.       I use it for

exaggerating students' potential positive responses. ("Tell,

us, yes tell us, oh glorious professor.       We are just dying to

know the real causes of the Peloponnesian War.       Don't make us

wait.     We don't want to go to lunch.    We want to stay and

listen to your fascinating lecture.")

        The other student voice is low pitched and sullen.      I

use it for exaggerating students' negative responses.

"Unfair, unfair.     You can't give us a test on the first day

of class.     You haven't taught us anything yet.    Not that

you're going to teach us anything."

        Having special facial expressions can also be effective

in getting responses from students.       Raising the eyebrows,

peering over one's glasses, dropping one's head in defeat,

etc. can all be developed into effective shtick.7

       Dr. Zacharie Clements, a frequent guest speaker at


      Almost nothing is more effective than humor in creating

 an effective classroom environment and in getting students to

 look forward to your class.     Most teachers know this, and try

 to dress up their presentations with a few jokes.

      The easiest way to add humor to the class is simply to

 check out a few joke books from the library or to look

 through the "Think and Grin" pages of old Boys' Life

 magazines.     You get such gems as the following:

      FATHER:      When I was your age, history was my best


      SON:         When you were my age, what had happened?

      There are two problems with using such jokes in your

 class.   First of all, it's often hard to connect the jokes

 with what you are doing.     The greater problem, however, is

 that the jokes simply are not very funny.    You can look

 through joke book after joke book and not come up with much

 that causes real laughter.

      The reason for this is that the best humor is holistic.

  It's not an isolated joke that's funny, but a comedian's

 whole routine.    It's rarely the first act of a comedy that's

education conferences, does some rather amazing things with
voices and faces. He has two particularly effective voices: a
falsetto voice he uses for a burned-out teacher, and a heavily
accented imitation of his Italian immigrant grandfather. If you
ever have the chance, try to see Dr. Clements in action.

really funny, but the last.   Thus to get true humor into your

class, you have to do something more than learn jokes out of

a joke book.   Fortunately, it's not too difficult to

incorporate real humor into your class if you know what makes

things funny in the first place.   Among the many sources of

humor are the following:

1. The expected

    Seeing the same stupid mistake over and over again makes

an audience laugh--and laugh louder the more times its

repeated.   Fibber McGee's closet, Rob Petrie tripping over

his ottoman, Laurel and Hardy letting a piano slide down a

flight of steps for the fifth time are all examples of the

expected as a source of humor.

    Similar patterns are very frequent in history.      The

"soldier emperors" of Rome, for instance, constantly sent

their best generals to deal with the threat of barbarian

invasion.   When the general was successful, his troops would

proclaim him emperor. They would then march on Rome, kill the

old emperor, and put their man in his place, usually getting

plenty of extra money for themselves as a coronation gift.

The barbarians would then flow across the frontier, the new

emperor would send his best general to meet the threat, the

general would be successful, his troops would proclaim him

emperor, they would then march on Rome, kill the old emperor,

 and the cycle would begin again.8

        As you present such stories to your students, they get

 to the point where they can predict what's going to happen

 next and can help you along with your lecture.

 2. The unexpected

        The unexpected, the times when a pattern is broken, can

 also be funny.    In Singing in the Rain, Donald O'Conner has

 the great song "Make 'em Laugh."    During the course of the

 song, he dances up each of the set walls in turn, using the

 wall to turn a complete somersault.    It's an impressive bit

 of dancing--but what makes it effective as comedy is that

 when O'Connor dances up the last wall it turns out to be only

 a canvas flat and he bursts through.    Extremely funny--partly

 because it's not what you expect.

      Actually, this is an oversimplification. The pattern
repeated itself, but with variations that make it far more
interesting than the brief story I give here.

         The unexpected is also a frequent pattern in history.

  Things build to a logical conclusion, but instead, the

  pattern is broken.     For instance, during the Roman

  Revolution, the typical pattern for a leader taking control

  was to slaughter his enemies.     Marius seized control, and his

  followers massacred the senators.     Sulla seized control, and

  massacred the followers of Marius,     Caesar took control and

  did what?     Students will guess that he massacred his

  senatorial opponents, but this isn't what happened.       Caesar

  was a merciful man, and did not do what one would have


  3. The inappropriate

         Another source of humor is the inappropriate--the wrong

  thing (or the wrong person), in the wrong place, and at the

  wrong time.    History is full of examples of the

  inappropriate.     Joe Kennedy as SEC chairman, Caligula's horse

  as a senator, Art Marmorstein writing a book on teaching

  methods--the list goes on and on.

          In addition to finding examples of the inappropriate in

  actual history, you can dress up almost any story by the

  addition of a few inappropriate details of your own


      Be careful to thank students for their logical answers,
pointing out that their answer does describe the logical course
before pointing out the actual course events took.

    The young people of Florence went from house to house

    collecting what Savanarola told them were "vanities,"

    things of no good purpose, offensive to God.     They

    brought the vanities to Savanarola to be burned.    Into

    the bonfires went the pornographic pictures, the

    pornographic books, the overly-fancy clothing, the wigs,

    the U-2 records, the notes from Marmorstein's class...

4. The appropriate

    Another important source of humor is the appropriate.

Audiences throughout the centuries have laughed at the same

old stories: the greedy old miser losing his fortune through

trying to cheat someone else, the lecherous nobleman brought

down by his own lechery, the braggart humiliated when his

boasts are shown to be empty.

    History is full of examples here too: Astyages dethroned

by the grandson he had tried to kill, Belshazzar partying

away his kingdom,    Robespierre going to the same punishment

he had inflicted on so many others.

    Note that opposites work.    The expected is funny, and

the unexpected is funny.    The appropriate is funny, and the

inappropriate is funny.    Consider the following example from

Roman history:

    Among the candidates running for consul in 63 B.C. were

Catiline and Cicero.    Cicero was a very impressive man.   A

highly competent and successful lawyer, a leading

philosopher, one of the greatest orators and writers of all

time, and a reputation as a defender of morality and justice.

 Catiline was a very different sort of fellow.    He had

seduced a vestal virgin, deflowered one of his virgin

daughters, and killed one of his sons because a prospective

new wife didn't like the boy.   His campaign consisted of

lavish parties where guests were offered, not only food and

drink, but male and female prostitutes for their amusement.

With these two men, the highly moral Cicero and the

completely immoral Catiline, who did the Roman people choose?

    My students always guess they chose the inappropriate

candidate, Catiline.   As it happens, the Roman people at this

point still had the sense to choose Cicero, but the story

would be effective with either ending.

    Another example of a story that works with either the

appropriate or inappropriate ending is the 1992 presidential

election.   In this election, the American people had to

choose between Bill Clinton and George Bush.     Bush was an

experienced statesman and administrator, having served in

both houses of Congress, as director of the CIA, and as vice-

president, and, for four years, as President of the United

States.   As President, Bush had led the country to its first

 important clear military victory since World War II.      At the

 same time, his economic policies helped lead the country to

 the highest GNP of any nation in all history.       In addition,

 Bush was a solid family man, a combat veteran of World War

 II, and a dog lover.     Clinton's political experience was

 limited to six years as governor of one of the smallest,

 poorest, and most corrupt states in the union, a state

 ranking near the bottom in education, health care quality,

 and per capita income.     As governor, he had funneled

 government contracts to his wife's law firm and used his

 connections to cover up the shady financial transactions of

 his buddies and business partners.       Clinton admitted cheating

 on his wife, but the evidence suggested more, that he had

 used his political power to attempt to win sexual favors from

 state employees.     He smoked dope (though he didn't inhale)

 and dodged the draft.     And on top of that, he was a cat


         With these two men to choose from, the American people

 picked... whom?     It doesn't matter.   Well, it does matter--

 but not as far as the story is concerned.      It's a good story

 whether the ending is appropriate or inappropriate.10

      Obviously, this story of the 1992 election leaves a lot of
things out: the role of Ross Perot, Bush's broken "read my lips"
promise on taxes, the slight downturn in the economy, the clever
handling of the campaign by Ron Brown, the lingering questions
over Bush's role in Iran-Contra, etc. These things would all be

        Note that, since opposites work (the appropriate and the

 inappropriate, the expected and the unexpected), everything

 we discuss in history is potentially amusing (or at least

 interesting).    But in order to take advantage of this, you

 must build in your students a sense of what to expect next

 and what would/would not be appropriate.    Many teachers (and

 virtually all textbooks) fail to do this.    Don't make that


 5. The Topper

        Another source of humor easily adapted to the history

 classroom is the topper.    Toppers involve a series of

 comments or actions in which two character each try to outdo

 the other.    One well-known set of toppers is the song

 "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from Annie, Get Your

 Gun.    My favorite topper, however, is a scene in one of the

 Marx brothers movies.

        Harpo is stopped by a policeman for doing something he

 shouldn't be doing.    The policeman gives Harpo a stern

 lecture, shaking his finger at Harpo.    Harpo begins lecturing

 the policeman, shaking his finger, but with a big smile on

 his face.    The policeman gets angry, and begins writing Harpo

a part of the discussion or lecture that followed, and one hopes
that students would be more intrigued by a discussion of these
elements of the election when they see them as parts of an answer
to an intriguing puzzle: how could Bush have lost to Clinton?

a ticket.   Harpo, still smiling, begins writing the policeman

a ticket.   The policeman, even angrier, tears up Harpo's

ticket.   Harpo, still smiling, tears up the policeman's

ticket.   The now furious policeman points to his badge.

Harpo, with his biggest grin, opens his coat--and shows the

policeman a dozen badges fastened inside.

    The topper is very easy to use as a principle for

organizing a lecture.   Wars and political campaigns can

easily be presented as a series of toppers.     One side does

one thing, the next side does something else in response, the

first side tries to top that, the second side again responds,

and the whole thing builds until one side comes up with the

ultimate topper.

6. Insult Humor/Put-downs

    Another important source of humor in the classroom is

the clever put-down.    Comedians who work before a live

audience usually have dozens of these at their disposal in

order to deal with various kinds of trouble makers:

    For the noise makers:       Let's play library.   You be the

                                silence sign.

    For the penny throwers:     There's only one animal that

                                throws a scent and it's here


    For the hecklers:           I don't need your criticism.    I

                                have a wife and teenage

                                daughter at home.

    For the rude:               Please try to act like a decent

                                human being.    Or don't you do


    Similar put-downs can work in the classroom, but they're

rather dangerous.   Make a teenager look ridiculous, and he

will hate you.   There are, however, plenty of legitimate

targets for put-down type humor, including many historical

figures.    Fortunately, clever put-downs tend to be

remembered, and you can often find funny lines (and sometimes

books) associated with the figures you talk about in class.

"The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill," for instance,

contains some very funny exchanges.

    LADY:             If you were my husband, I'd poison your


    CHURCHILL:        If you were my wife, I'd drink it.

    LADY:             You're drunk!

    CHURCHILL:        Yes, Madam.   And you're ugly.   But in the

                      morning, I'll be sober.

    There are plenty of other such lines and stories

associated with famous historical figures.      My favorite is

Vachel Lindsay's line "Where is McKinley, Mark Hannah's

McKinley, his slave, his echo, his suit of clothes?"      I also

like Mark Rinehart's quip after his visit to the Black Hills.

    MARK:        Did you hear they're adding two new faces to

                 Mt. Rushmore?

    ME:          No.

    MARK:        Yes.    Bill Clinton.

7. The best source of humor

    While I am pretty good at making my material funny, I

have always found that the best lines come not from me, but

from my students.      In a class of any size, there is always at

least one student who has the knack for seeing what's funny

in life.    If you give these students half a chance, they will

supply all the humor you need.

    How do you encourage these students?      Simply be a good

audience yourself.      Listen to what your students say.   React.

 Laugh.    Once the students with comic ability know you will

laugh at the funny things they say, they'll give you an

endless supply of laugh-lines.      Your whole class will end up

laughing together--and your students will enjoy social



    Actors are a bit egotistical: each one wants to be the

star, to have the audiences go home raving about their

particular performance.      Now one might think that the way to

do this is to do whatever it takes to draw attention to

 yourself, to constantly upstage the other actors, and to

 steal the spotlight whenever possible, even if it means

 messing up another actor's performance.     Some ham amateurs

 try this, but professionals know that the best performers are

 those who make everyone around them look good.11     They will

 sacrifice the spotlight, and give up some of their best bits

 if it makes the production better, knowing that, in the long

 run, being part of a great show makes you look better than

 the finest performance in a flop.

         The same principle applies to us as teachers.   We might

 think we look good as teachers when other teachers are made

 to look bad.     Exactly the reverse is true.   The more we build

 up the other teachers we work with, the better our whole

 program will appear to the students.     As students' attitudes

 toward school in general improve, their attitude toward your

 class will also tend to improve.     Positive attitudes toward

 school tend to breed success--and further reasons for being


         Praise other teachers to students and parents every

 chance you get.     Cite other teachers as authorities for some

 of what you do/discuss in class.     Eventually, what goes

 around comes around, and you'll find you have the same kind

      The dancers especially know how to make their partners
look good. A Fred Astaire or a Gene Kelley can make a broom or a
mop seem like a wonderful dancer.

of things said about you.


    An actor learns very quickly how much a cleverly chosen

costume, a skillfully designed set, or an adept adjustment of

the lighting can add to a performance.    Each added technical

element works its own special magic in rehearsals and

performance, and the right technical crew can turn an

ordinary performance into something to remember.

    Unfortunately, we don't have techies to help us in the

classroom, and so we have to do the set, lighting, and

costume designs for ourselves.

1. The set

    In most performances, the first thing the audience sees

is the set, and it is important that the set create just the

right first impression.     The same thing is true of our

classrooms.   Before we even begin to speak, the physical

environment of the classroom sets a mood for what will

follow.   Bulletin boards, maps, charts, historical artifacts

should all say (with Prof. Bowsky) "return with us now to

those thrilling days of yester-year."     Perhaps most effective

of all, is to have a room filled with the results of the

students' own work: student-made maps, bulletin boards,

drawings, etc.

2. Costume

      What you wear to class makes a great deal of difference

in how students respond to you.   They respond one way to a

teacher dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, and entirely

differently to teacher in a three-piece suit.       Which style

of dress is better?   It depends on what you want.    Formal

dress establishes a distance between student and teacher.       It

also conveys a sense of authority.   Young teachers often find

that dressing formally gives them a measure of respect they

might not otherwise have.   Informal dress tends to diminish

the gap between student and teacher.      It invites more student

participation and, since it is generally more comfortable,

makes it easier to get through the day.

3. Lighting

      Few teachers think much about lighting in the classroom,

but it's an element that shouldn't be ignored.     Inappropriate

lighting or heating or simply too much outside noise can ruin

an otherwise good learning environment.     Look out for your

students as much as you can in these areas.


      Audiences of today are taught to be polite.     They

usually sit still through a performance no matter how bad it

is.   This hasn't always been the case.    In the past, actors

and actresses were often hooted off the stage by patrons who

didn't like their performance, and whole shows were stopped

by unruly audiences--including the premier performances of

some of the greatest stage works in all history.

    Unfortunately, American students can behave like the old

audiences, and often enough they succeed in shutting down any

learning that might be going on in the classroom.     Many

potentially excellent teachers have left the profession

because of unruly students.

    I have no magic recipe for successful classroom

management.   I do have some suggestions that may help:

1. Beware of anyone who claims to have a magic recipe for

successful classroom management.

    Assertive discipline, PIP programs, etc. probably work

fine for the people who invented them, but they tend to

backfire when imposed system-wide by a school district.      We

can't all use the same discipline techniques.   Vibrant young

women and crotchety old men can both maintain discipline--but

they do it differently.

2. Decide how to handle discipline problems before they

arise.   Know the discipline policies of your school and

district and what sanctions are under your control.   Decide

what disciplinary procedures you will use.   Don't improvise.

3. Be prepared for class both physically and intellectually.

    Discipline is far easier to maintain if one comes into

class well prepared, knowing exactly how to allocate the time

available.    It is also easier when one is getting plenty of

sleep and exercise and eating three good meals a day.      You

can almost count on an increase in discipline problems

whenever you let yourself get run down physically, and

discipline problems tend to disappear when you come into

class full of life and energy.

4. Place responsibility for poor behavior on the student, not


       In general,   adult    response to conflicts is to accept

at least part of the responsibility for any difficult

situation that arises.       When dealing with student

misbehavior, that may not always be the wisest approach.

Several years ago, I watched one of my student teachers

settle a misbehaving student with a rather curt, "What's your

problem?"    I was a bit taken aback: the tone seemed

offensive.    But after I thought about it for a while, I

realized that that was probably exactly the right thing to

say.    The misbehavior was the student s problem, not the


5. Address specific students rather than the class as a

whole.      "Let's quiet down" doesn't work as well as "Arthur,

you're a bit too loud."

6. Don't give instructions you don't intend to enforce.

       Over and over again I see student teachers making the

same mistake, repeating their instruction (usually "quiet

down") several times while the students ignore them.   It's

better not to give an instruction at all than to let it be


7. Know the bottom line.

    Sooner or later, some kid will point blank refuse to do

                                                  what you

                                                  have told

                                                  him to do.

                                                   This is a


                                                  moment, and

                                                  your future

                                                  success in




                                                  depends to

                                                  a great

                                                  extent on

                                                  what you do

                                                  here.     Open


                                                  merits a







and letting

a student

get away

with such


does no one

any favors,

least of

all the




ly, the

bottom line

is none too

firm in

many of our



ors, who

should be


"bad cop"

to our

"good cop"



reverse the




worse for


than having

a defiant


come back

to your




done about



beyond a


chat with a


 My advice

is to find

out right

away where

you stand


whoever is

in charge



at your


Let them

know that

you won't


students to

them often,

but that

when you

do, you

don't want

to see the

student in

class again

until the


or has




with you.

If you

sense that



ion will

not back

you up,


relying on

them at



                                                   use as your

                                                   bottom line


                                                   y measures

                                                   you can







    What counts in the theater is not how the play looks to

the actor, but how it appears to the audience.

Unfortunately, no actor, no matter how good, can really tell

how his performance looks from the audience's point of view.

 This is why even the best actor has to rely on his director.

 The director can watch rehearsals from every seat in the

house.   He can tell the actor when his lines can be heard in

the back of the auditorium and whether or not his expressions

and gestures can be seen.   The best actors want such

direction.   It gives them the freedom to experiment with all

sorts of different things, knowing that there's a reliable

person to tell them what works and what doesn't.

    Good teachers must also learn to listen to their

director.   Some of you may ask, "What director?    The school

administrator?"    Hardly.   School administrators seldom know

what's going on in individual classrooms and rarely can give

you the kind of feedback you need.     I'm talking about

learning to listen to the real director.     The real director?

 Yes, you do have a real director, and you need to learn to

listen to Him.    In other words, you should pray for your

students and for yourself as a teacher.




    Well, o.k., but hear me out first.      I know that it isn't

politically correct to advocate prayer in school, but I

advocate it nevertheless--and I think with good reason.

    When I was just starting out as a teacher, a more

experienced teacher told me that I should always try to look

at my class from my students' point of view.     That's

excellent advice, but not always easy to apply.     Prayer is

one excellent way of being able to set one's own views aside

and open up to a different perspective on one's class.

    I first realized this when teaching drama and English in

a private junior high school in California.     My students at

this school were excellent.    The "average" kid in these

classes was two grade levels ahead of national averages on

standardized achievement tests.    The students were also

extremely talented: musical, athletic, and (especially

important to me) the most gifted young actors and actresses I

had ever seen.    The kids were teachable, polite, and eager to

learn more.    All except for Mike.

    Mike was a thorn in the side to every teacher in the

school.    He was a poor student, never on task, always getting

into trouble, and a distraction to others who were trying to

learn.    He was clumsy and careless, once breaking fifty

dollars   worth of stage lights by throwing a football in the


    One day, especially frustrated at his behavior, I

started praying for Mike.    Now I had prayed about Mike

before, but praying for him was something different.     As I

prayed, I began to see things from Mike's perspective, to see

what it must be like to be the worst student in every

subject, to be the kid nobody liked, to be the kid who was

always in trouble.   Further, I began to feel what it must be

like to be raised by a grandmother in a school where everyone

else came from traditional families--and my heart sank.

    Strangely, once I understood things from Mike's point of

view, I knew how to handle him.    My discipline problems with

him almost disappeared.   He began doing better work in my

classes, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed having him in

my class.

    Gaining such insights into students is enough reason for

prayer, but there are others.   Prayer reminds us that our

students are not animals, but creatures destined by God to

live forever.   It reminds us that our primary role as

teachers is the care of souls, and that our role in guiding

these young souls is the most important task on earth.   "I

touch the future; I teach" reads a popular education bumper

sticker--and it's even more true than some of us realize.

Perhaps even better would be, "I teach; I touch eternity."

                             CHAPTER V



       Perhaps the best way of creating an effective classroom

environment is to give students something to look forward to

when they come to your class.    I have asked students in my

previous methods classes to come up with contests, games, and

activities they think students will particularly enjoy.      I

include here some of their suggestions mixed with a few ideas

of my own.

1. Fictionary

       This activity is best done in groups of around six.    An

unusual (but historically important!) word is read and

spelled to the group.    Each person in the group writes a

brief "definition" of the word.    Each person hands in their

definition, then all definitions are read twice to the whole

group.    Each person then guesses which definition is correct.

 Score three points for each correct guess and one point for

each person who guesses that your definition is the correct


2. Fictionary Encyclopedia

       Play as fictionary above, but instead of vocabulary

words, use important historical figures/events.

3. History Expert

    One person is the expert on the topic under discussion.

The expert gets a place of honor at the front of the class,

perhaps the teacher's desk.   The other students can ask any

question they want about the topic.    If the "expert" answers

incorrectly, the person asking the question becomes the new

history expert and gets the expert's chair.    This works well

both as a closed book and as an open book exercise.

4. Historywood Squares

    Play as Hollywood squares.    Give some "stars" the

answers ahead of time, let the rest bluff.    This might be a

good way to introduce a new topic.

5. History Tennis

    Give students a list of important events and dates such

as the following:

         Norman conquest of England                 1066

         Magna Carta                                1215

         Hundred Years' War Begins                  1337

         Black Death decimates Europe               1348

         Jacquerie                                  1358

         Fall of Constantinople                     1453

         Martin Luther's 95 theses                  1517

    Select one student as the history tennis champion and

one student as the challenger.    Challenging student "serves"

a particular historical event.    The student receiving the

serve must answer correctly, then serve up an event of their

own.    A point is scored when one student misses.   The student

with the last correct answer is the champion, and remains up

front to take on a new challenger.

       This also works well as a memorization drill.   Students

recite alternate words of whatever is being memorized (e.g.,

the Preamble to the Constitution).    The first student to miss

a word sits down and there is a new challenger.

6. Choral Reading

       Choral reading sometimes works as a way of getting

students to pay closer attention to an important document,

e.g. the Declaration of Independence.    Give the students the

selection you want them to concentrate on and divide them

into groups of six-eight.    Choose a director for each group,

and explain that the group's job is to come up with an

interesting way of presenting the selection.    The selection

can be divided into solo parts, duets, and trios or into

parts for two semi-choruses.    Students may have some

difficulty at first.    Letting the students listen to a

recording of Vachel Lindsay reading his poems is a good way

to get them started.

7. Mock Trials

       Prepare to put a historical figure on trial, e.g.

Socrates, Columbus, Robert Clive, Napoleon etc.    Let one side

prepare the case for the prosecution, the other side prepare

the case for the defense.    Be sure to have a competent judge


8. Exercises in parliamentary procedure

       Let students go through all the steps in getting a bill

signed into law--and in preventing bills from being signed!

Teach them about motions to postpone, assigning bills to

committee, filibusters, etc. and also techniques for

avoiding/overcoming obstacles.

9. Political Conventions

       Divide class into two parties plus a few independents.

Let each party hold a convention.    Give each student some

particular concern or concerns regarding political issues.

Then divide the class into two parties plus a few

independents.    Tell each student that their aim is to get a

candidate and a party platform as close as possible to their

position, but that they must be pretty sure their candidate

will win the election.     Allow only five planks in the

platform.    Have each party read their platform to the class

as a whole and let the candidates they select speak briefly

on the platform.    Then hold your election!12

       Washington and Lee University stages a very impressive

 10. Pig Farmer

      A basic economics/politics game that can get as

 complicated as you want.    Basic goal: stay alive!    Additional

 goals can be added--earn enough money to marry and raise

 children, win political office, earn more money than the rest

 of the players, make sure all players are well off.      To

 start, give each player one of the following: land, money,

 seed, male pigs, or female pigs.    Give them basic assumptions

 on the productivity of the land, feed needed by the pigs,

 etc. Let them trade with each other and see what happens to

 prices of pigs, land, etc.    Add extra details to the game to

 teach various aspects of economics and politics.      Add an

 export market.   Add the possibility of capital improvement in

 their land.   Establish a basic personal consumption minimum

 to stay in the game.   Allow students to hire out their labor.

  Establish a religion that doesn't eat pork!    Set up a

 political system to regulate trade, provide welfare,

 redistribute wealth, etc.

 10. Paper Mache Globe (Bev Leppert)

      Provide students with balloons, paper strips, glue

 (flour and water paste works fine) bowls of water, paints or

 markers.   Have them each make a world of their own, painting

mock convention every four years. It s well worth watching a
video recording of any of their previous conventions.

or coloring it in any way they choose.   The worlds can be

used to decorate your room.   This is a good introductory

activity for a geography class.

11. Current Events Collage (Bev Leppert)

    Provide students with scissors, construction paper, and

glue.   Students are responsible for bringing articles from

newspapers and magazines.   Articles with pictures and large

headings work best.   Students make a collage out of the

articles they have collected.   They then present their work

to the class, with short History Mu summaries of the articles

they collected.

12. Current Events Mural (Bev Leppert)

    Provide students with butcher paper, paint, brushes,

markers, crayons, and colored pencils.   Organize students

into groups and tell them to select a topic relevant to the

material currently being studied in your class.     Have each

group make a mural depicting that topic.   Have students

explain their murals to the class as a whole.

13. Create a Newspaper (Bev Leppert)

    Divide students into groups, appointing an editor for

each group.   Have each group put together a newspaper

consisting of stories relevant to the unit topic.    Include

headlines, bylines, datelines, and pictures.

14. Writing a Protest Song (Bev Leppert)

       Hand out some examples of old protest songs such as

"Beans, Bacon, and Gravy," "We Shall Overcome," or "We Didn't

Start the Fire."    Have students divide into groups and write

their own protest songs using current issues or issues

related to the material you are currently studying.       Songs

can be set to familiar tunes, or students can make up their


15. Classroom Campaign (Bev Leppert)

       Have the students divide into groups.    Each group

selects a candidate and runs a campaign for that candidate,

complete with speeches, campaign posters, debates, chants and

slogans, etc.

16. Form your own colony (Bev Leppert)

       Divide the class into groups.   Each group decides on a

reason why they want to work together to form a colony.

After deciding on a purpose for their colony, they draw up a

list of rules, divide up duties, form a government, figure

out a way to live, etc.    They then present the results of

their work to the whole class.

17. History Basketball (Chip Sundberg)

       Divide students into teams.   Students are asked

questions on the material being studied.       If the student

answers a question correctly, he gets a chance to shoot an

eraser at a waste paper basket from one, three, or five point


18. Picture History (Leah Bossman)

    Play like Pictionary but use social science events,

figures, and terms.

19. Jeopardy (Leah Bossman)

    Play like the game show but use categories relevant to

the material studied in class.    This is a good game for

reinforcing concepts and ideas studied in earlier units.

20. History Charades (Leah Bossman)

    A group or individual is given a historical term or

event.    They act it out without saying anything until the

rest of the class guesses what they are acting out.

21. History News (Leah Bossman)

    The class is split into groups of about four.     Each

group is given a historical event to report on.    They then

put together a T.V. type news show, complete with relevant

commercials, sports, weather, interviews, etc.    For instance,

a group doing the Boston Tea Party might develop a commercial

about a new and improved tea that would resist salt-water

damage.   The sports segment could feature crate throwing as a

sport, while the weather forecast might suggest good tea-

throwing weather.

22. Alphabet Geography    (Leah Bossman)

      The teacher starts the game by giving a student the name

of a river, a state, an ocean, or a country.      The student has

ten seconds to come up with a term that starts with the last

letter of the previous term.      For example, if the teacher

starts the game with the James River, the next person could

say Rapid City, while the next could say Yankton.

23. Who Said?    (Leah Bossman)

      Students select quotes from historical figures.    The

rest of the class has to identify the person and the

situation leading to the quote.      If the class cannot identify

the figure, the student gives additional clues or quotes.

24. What If?    (Leah Bossman)

      Students write papers explaining what they think might

have happened if certain historical events had been somewhat

different.    For example, students might discuss how the Civil

War might have been different had Lee chosen to fight on the

Union side.

25. History Rap (Leah Bossman)

      Have groups of students develop a rap song using

historical events and figures as the basis for their lyrics.

 The groups then perform their songs before the class.      The

group with the best performance or most original idea gets

extra credit points.

26.   History Feud (Leah Bossman)

    Play like Family Feud.     The class is divided into two

teams.   Individuals from each team face off to decide who

gets control of the game.    The team with control retains

control unless it gets three strikes.    The team in control

when all answers are in gets the points.    A good question for

this game: name the original thirteen colonies.

27. History Taboo (Brad Sale)

    Prepare cards in advance.     Each card names at the top an

important historical figure or event, perhaps the most

important terms to know for an upcoming exam.    Below the key

word, list a series of "taboo" words, words the student

cannot use in trying to get the class to guess the term on

his card.   Score one point for each word the student gets his

team-mates to guess correctly.    Subtract one point for using

a taboo word.

28. Psychiatrist/Counselor (Brad Sale)

    One student is chosen as the doctor or counselor.     The

other students invent problems for which they want advice.

As long as the class thinks the answers are good, the doctor

remains the doctor.   Otherwise, the student posing the

problem becomes the new doctor.

29. Time Machine (Brad Sale)

    Students write a screen play about an imaginary trip

back to the time you are studying in class.    If a video

camera is available, they might actually produce their play.

30. Let's Change History (Brad Sale)

    Students are asked to decide what historical events they

would change if it was in their power to do so.    They are

then asked to describe what subsequent history would have

been like had those changes been made.

31. Sale Roulette (Brad Sale)

    Students are asked one at a time to supply a detail from

the chapter assigned for that day.   Students stay in the game

until they repeat an item mentioned previously by another

student or are unable to come up with anything new.

32. Fast Talk (Kim Nikolas)

    One player is "it."   He names a historic character,

points to another player, and counts from one to ten at a

fairly rapid pace.   The player pointed to must supply one

fact about the character before the first player reaches ten.

 If he succeeds, the first player remains "it."    Otherwise,

the new player is "it."

33. Interviews (Kim Nikolas)

    Students are divided into pairs.     One pretends to be an

important historical or contemporary figure.    The other is

the interviewer.   Together, the two do enough research to

present a convincing interview to the rest of the class.

34. Historic Letter-writing (Kim Nikolas)

    Students write imaginary letters from the point of view

of a person who has first hand experience of an important

event.   Example:   An Oklahoma farmer writing to his brother

as he prepares to move his family to California in 1933.

Another example:    A survivor of the atomic attack at

Hiroshima writes to a friend in Tokyo.

35. Diaries/Journals (Kim Nikolas)

    A student assumes the identify of a historical character

and writes a diary entry (or series of entries) from that

character's point of view.    Example: The secret diary of a

sailor who traveled with Columbus.    Another example: A week

in the life of a Jamestown settler.

36. Political Cartoons (Kim Nikolas)

    Students search old newspapers for political cartoons

from the period being studied.    They then explain these

cartoons to the class.    For recent topics, students can draw

their own cartoons.

37. Historic Eulogy (Kim Nikolas)

    Students write and deliver a eulogy of a favorite

historical character.    An option is to have them not mention

the character by name, and see if the class can guess the

figure eulogized.

38. Letter to the Editor (Kim Nikolas)

    Students write letters to the editor defending a certain

viewpoint.   Example: A student might write a letter to an

1840 newspaper defending a woman's right to speak to a mixed


39. Foods from Around the World (Kristin Albee)

    Have students do oral reports on a county or region.

Have them make maps and tell about the culture of the people

in the country they are studying.    On the day they give their

report, have them bring a food from that country for the

class to try.   There are many simple, inexpensive recipes

they can use.   Students can also work in pairs for this


40. Wagon Train Board Game (Kristin Albee)

    Divide students into groups, give each a sheet of poster

board, and have each design a wagon train game board.       Have

them include appropriately designated squares (e.g., broken

wheel, lose one turn).

41. Popsicle Stick Fort (Kristin Albee)

    Have students work in teams to construct different parts

of an old west fort or town.    Have them then set up the

entire fort and explain what role the piece they built played

in the welfare of the town.    There are lots of other

historical settings one students could construct from

popsicle sticks or sugar cubes.

 42. Topographical Map (Kristin Albee)

         Use clay13, play dough, legos, construction paper, or

 paper mache to build a topographical map of a state of

 country.     Students must put in all major land forms such as

 mountains and rivers.

 43. Psychology Head (Kristin Albee)

         Divide students into groups.   Have each group draw an

 outline of a human head (profile works best) on poster board.

  Have them turn the head into a game board for use with

 psychology-related questions.      Have them write questions and

 answers on cards, then let the groups exchange games and


 44. Review Concentration (Lisa Taylor)

         Play this game just like regular concentration.   The

 twist is to write review questions on one card, the answer on

 the other, so that students must know the correct answers to

 make matches.

 45.     My Favorite Historical Character (Lisa Taylor)

         The students will need at least one day of prep time for

         this activity.   Encourage your students to act out or
      Donna Marmorstein's recipe for home-made clay: equal
amounts of salt and flour plus enough water to get the
consistency appropriate for your project. Alum can be added as a

      impersonate their favorite historical character.

      Encourage them to use any wacky props or made-up

      costumes they want.

46. Bill and Ted's Excellent Theater Game (Lisa Taylor)

      Put the names of a bunch of famous historical characters

from different historical periods into a hat.    Have two

people each draw one.   Have the two act out their character's

reactions if they were to meet walking down the street.

47. Perception Activity (Lisa Taylor)

      Divide the students into pairs.   The two partners sit

back to back.   Give one partner a card with a figure drawn on

it.   This partner describes what he sees on the card to his

partner, who attempts to duplicate the original figure solely

on the basis of his partner's description.

48. Presidential Bingo (Lisa Taylor)

      Students prepare Bingo Cards with the names of the

presidents instead of numbers.   Each student then gets one

card for the game.   Facts about the presidents are read to

the class.   When the class correctly figures out which

president is being described, each person who has that

president on their card can cover that space.

49. History Football (Craig Kinzer)

      Prepare questions of varying difficulty, easy questions

that represent a ten yard gain mixed with a few harder

questions that represent an automatic touchdown.    Divide the

class into two teams.   The team with the ball has three

"downs" to advance the football.    On the fourth down, the

opposing team has a chance to "blitz."   If they answer

correctly before the offensive team, then they get the ball

and a chance to move in the opposite direction.

50. Current Events League (Craig Kinzer)

    Divide the class up into three or four person teams, and

have each team compete weekly against one of the other teams

on a current events quiz.   Keep track of league standings

over the quarter or the semester and award trophies to the

members of the winning team.

51. History Golf (Craig Kinzer)

    For each hole, chose two historical events, one for each

side to guess.   Sides take turns guessing the date of their

event, and with each "shot" are told if they are too high or

too low in their guess.   Score as in match play golf: the

team taking the fewest number of shots wins that hole.

52. High Stakes Econ (Craig Kinzer)

    One student is the broker.     Students are given a certain

amount of play money which they invest with the broker to buy

stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange.    Use for prices

the closing figures of the previous day's listing.    Students

buy and sell over the course of the semester, trying to

maximize their holdings.

53. Name Tag Match (Mike Trumbo)

    Each student has a name tag attached to his/her back.

Somewhere in the class, another student has the same name on

their tag.   Students must find their match by asking other

students about the character on their own name tag (Did I

hold a political office?    Did I live before the Civil War?

Did I write a book?)

54. Work sheet Relay (Mike Trumbo)

    Students are divided into six teams.     The player at the

front of each team gets a work sheet.    As soon as he finishes

the first question, he passes the work sheet on to the next

person in line.   This person completes his question, and

passes the work sheet on.    The last player brings the work

sheet back to the front, and the whole process continues

until the entire work sheet is filled out.    All team members

can call out answers, but only the person whose turn it is

can do the actual writing.

55. History Card Sharks (Paula Stolsmark)

    A deck of cards is needed.     The class is divided into

teams.   One card is turned up.   The team whose turn it is

must guess whether the next card is higher or lower.    If they

are wrong, control passes to the other team.    If they are

right, they continue to guess until three cards have been

played. The team may then freeze.    If they freeze, they must

answer a question on the material you are studying.    If they

answer correctly, they get five points for each card played.

56. Sponge or Eraser Baseball (Paula Stolsmark)

    Label five areas of the chalkboard as follows: SINGLE,

DOUBLE, TRIPLE, HOME RUN, AND OUT.    Let players throw an

eraser or wet sponge at the board.    If they hit OUT, the

other team is up.   Otherwise, a correct answer to the

question is worth the value of the spot hit.    Runners advance

and score as in regular baseball.    An incorrect answer is an

out, and control passes to the other team.

57. History Bowling (Deliah Lehrke)

    This game requires a play bowling set.     Players first

attempt to answer a question.   If they get the answer right,

they get to roll the ball at the pins.    They get one point

for each pin knocked down.   A gutter ball or a wrong answer

give control to the other team.

58. United States Hangman (Chad Anderson)

    The teacher assigns each student a state.     That student

comes up with fifteen questions regarding that state.    These

questions are used for a "hangman" game.    The class attempts

to answer the student's questions.    For each wrong answer,

another body part is added under the noose.

59. Scattergory Geography (Cari Sonnenburg)

    Pick categories such as famous rivers, important cities,

major exports, etc.   Choose a letter and a country and have

the students fill in as many categories as they can.     Score

as in regular Scattergories where each unique answer is worth

one point.

60. Diorama Showcase (Cari Sonnenburg)

    Have each student (or groups of students) construct a

diorama of an historical event, a sociological institution, a

state, a city, or a country.   Important information about the

topic should be displayed in the diorama.   For example, a

diorama of India could have a picture of a lot of people,

rice and wheat fields, a star with New Delhi on it, etc.

61. Current Events Jeopardy (Cari Sonnenburg)

    KDLT sends out a questionnaire about news stories they

have broadcast.   There are national and international

questions, each ranked according to difficulty.   These are

convenient questions to use for a Jeopardy-type game.

62. Meteorology Specialists (Cari Sonnenburg)

    After discussing different weather patterns and symbols

in class, have each student or group of students prepare a

weather forecast.   Provide a map and a pointer and allow the

students to explain different weather patterns that could

allegedly be hitting different areas soon.

63. Oligopoly (Cari Sonnenburg, Stolen from Mr. Bob Quinn)

    Split students into groups of three.     Explain that they

are in competition with each other to price the same good.

They have a choice to price the good at $3.00 or $4.00.

Within the groups, have the students discuss what they are

going to do.   Let them know ahead of time that if everyone in

the class puts a four, everyone will receive 5 bonus points.

 If only one person puts a three, that person has captured

the market and will get 20 bonus points, while the rest of

the class gets nothing.   If more than one person puts down a

three, those students get three bonus points and the rest of

the class gets nothing.

64. Daily Trivia (Neil Chalmers)

    Get a deck of history trivia cards.      Select from these

cards those that are not too easy but which students may be

able to answer.   Ask one question at the start of each day.

Whenever the students get the correct answer five days in a

row, reward them with a pop day or something fun.

65. Electricity (Neil Chalmers)

    Divide the students into two teams.    Each team stands in

a line holding hands.   A beanbag is placed within easy reach

of the last member of each team.   A question is then read to

the class.   If a student knows the answer, he squeezes the

hand of the person next to him.   The squeeze is then passed

down the line to the last person.   As soon as he feels the

squeeze, this person picks up the bean bag.   The team that

picks up the bag gets the first shot at the question.

66. Tic Tac Toe (Neil Chalmers)

    Divide into teams (X's and O's) and draw a tic tac toe

board on the chalkboard.   Ask review questions of the

students, allowing them to place their symbol in any square

of their choosing if they get the answer right.

67. History Simon Says (Neil Chalmers)

    Play Simon Says with your class with this variation: a

student who would normally be out stays in if he can come up

with the correct answer to a review question.

68.History Outburst (Neil Chalmers)

    This game is like the board game Outburst.    Have a list

of 8-10 items.   Divide the class up into teams of 4-6

players.   Give one team a category and tell them that they

have one minute to guess all of the items on your list.   Give

them a point for every correct answer.   The team who gets 40

correct answers first is the winner.   Example topics:

Presidents 1900-1960, South Dakota Rivers, Grand Theories of


69. History Darts (Ken VanderVorst)

    Divide the class into two teams.     Teams take turns

answering questions.    If questions are answered correctly,

one team member gets to throw a dart at the board, scoring

for their team the value of that throw.

70. History Baseball (Ken VanderVorst)

    Divide the class into two teams.     Each team makes up a

"batting order."   Four desks are arranged in the shape of a

diamond and used as bases.    The teacher pitches questions of

different difficulties (singles, doubles, triples, and home

runs).   Student does not select the difficulty, but finds out

the difficulty after his attempt to answer.    A missed

question is an out.    Each team gets three outs an inning.

71. Time Line (Kerry Livingston)

    Students work in small groups.    Each group gets a set of

cards naming important historical events.    Students are to

arrange these cards in chronological order, fastening each

card in the appropriate place on a time line.

72. Pyramid (Kerry Livingston)

    Students form teams of two.    One student faces the

class, the other the front of the classroom.     A pyramid of

historical categories on an overhead is shown to the member

facing the front and to the other class members, but not to

the student facing the class.    The team member facing the

pyramid gets one minute to list members of each group in the

pyramid.    When his team-mate guesses correctly, that block in

the pyramid is crossed off, and the team goes on to the next

block.   Categories used might include: New Deal Projects,

Abolitionists, Railroads, First Ladies, War Dates, and Famous


73. History Puzzle (Mendy Sippel)

    Write a set of history questions and answers close

together on a sheet of paper.    Laminate, and cut into

individual pieces.    Have the students put the puzzle

together.    Better yet, have the students make their own

puzzles and attempt to put together puzzles made by their


74. History Horse Racing (Mendy Sippel)

    Horses advance along a race course whenever students

answer a question correctly.

75. Back in Time Day (Brian Schwartze)

    Set aside one day as Back in Time Day.    Work with

students to create in your classroom the feeling of a

schoolroom of some earlier historical era.   The focus should

be on that era's clothing, lifestyles, music, and classroom

etiquette.    Serve for lunch food typical of that era.   Try to

be as authentic as possible, e.g. doing without electricity

if that is appropriate for the era you recreate.

76. Duckshot (Mendy Sippel)

    Players toss bean bags at cardboard ducks.   They get one

toss for every correct answer to a question and one point for

every duck knocked down.

77. Chess or Checker Review (Mendy Sippel)

    Write review questions on index cards.    Students play

checkers or chess using normal rules, but they may not jump

or take a piece unless they correctly answer the question on

the card.   Another idea is to have students construct their

own chess sets, using historical figures from the era you are

studying to represent the king, queen, rooks, bishops,

knights, and pawns.

78. Battlefield Sets (Brian Schwartze)

    Using whatever material is available (clay, paper,

sticks, twigs, paint, etc.) have students create various

landscapes where important historical battles took place.

These landscapes should look as authentic as possible,

including hills, trees, rivers, roads, and buildings.

79. What's My Line?

    A panel of four students gets five minutes to try to

guess the occupation or identity of a student assuming the

role of a historical character.   They may ask as many yes-or-

no questions as time allows.

80. Twenty Questions

    Guess the person, place or thing in 20 questions or

less.    An old game, but still fun.

81. Stump the Teacher

    Students prepare questions from the textbook that they

think will be hard enough to stump the teacher.

82. Elimination (Jeff Trudeau)

    Divide the class into four teams.     Each team receives

ten balloons.    The object of the game is to eliminate all of

the other three teams' balloons.   Teams take turns answering

questions.    A correct answer entitles them to pop any balloon

of their choice.

83. Presidential Flash Cards (Beth Nielson)

    Have students prepare sets of U.S. Presidents flash

cards.    Each set should have the president s name on the

front, and a list of significant events from that president s

term of office.    Students work in pairs reviewing the overall

course of U.S. history through flash card drills.

84. History Relay (Malina West)

    Divide the class into groups of three or four, giving

the first person in each group a baton.    The person holding

the baton in each group gets a chance to write down the

answer to a review question.    If the person answers

correctly, the baton moves to the next team member.     If not,

the baton stays where it is.    The first team to complete four

cycles is the winner.

85. Make a game (Malina West)

    Divide the class into equal groups.    Each group is to

invent a review game to help prepare for the next test.    Each

group then presents the game to the class.

86. Trivia Trapped (Malina West)

    Divide the class into two groups, and have each group

take opposite sides of the classroom.    The teacher asks a

question of the students on one team.    If their answer is

incorrect, one of their players goes to the trap and is

(temporarily) out of the game.   If they answer correctly, the

teacher asks a question of the other team.    Three correct

answers in a row rescues a trapped player.    The game

continues until one side s players have all been trapped.

87. Social Studies Around the World (Malina West)

    One student is picked to begin the game.    He or she will

stand next to the desk of a classmate.    A question is asked

of the two students.    The student who first answers correctly

moves to the next desk.   The other student remains

seated/takes the vacated seat.   The student who makes it back

to his or her original desk first wins the game.

88. Panel of Experts (Brian Allmendinger)

    Divide the students into teams or      panels.      Ask a

preliminary question.    The first team to answer correctly

sits in front of the class as the designated       expert panel.

 Each team then asks the panel a question related to the

assigned reading.   The panel then has one minute to come up

with the correct responses.    If the panel does not answer

correctly, the team who asked the question that stumped the

panel automatically becomes the new     panel of experts.

(Note: I like this game as an introductory activity as well

as a review activity.    Allow the   non-experts     to use the

textbook for their questions.     This gets all students

searching through the book for unfamiliar facts.)

89. Team Worksheets (Kelly Hanson)

    Split the class into teams.      Give the first person on

each team a worksheet. On the command     go,    that person

answers any question on the worksheet.     They then pass the

worksheet on to the next player in the group who answers any

of the remaining question.     Continue to pass the worksheets

around for 5-10 minutes.    The team with the most correct

answers is the winner.

90. Pass the Pen (Lori Stulken)

    Divide the students into two groups.        Each group forms a

circle around one person.     The person in the middle hands a

pen to someone in the circle.    This student (the questioner)

names a date, person, or event from the chapter being

studied, then begins passing the pen around the circle.      The

student in the center must give one correct fact about that

date, person, or event before the pen gets back to the

questioner.   If the student answers correctly and in time,

the questioner must take his/her place in the center of the


    When playing games, it's often nice to have some small

reward for the winner.    Some teachers award a few extra

credit points for the winner of a game.    I occasionally use

pieces of penny candy as an immediate reward to anyone who

gets a right answer (and sometimes even for those who try to

get the answer right).    Another trick is to use slightly

altered play money or funny coupons.

    When I want to give a somewhat more desirable reward, I

have often had help from local businesses.    When I lived in

California, I could always get Student of the Week and

Citizen of the Week certificates from Carl's Jr., one of the

major fast-food chains.   These certificates came with a

coupon for a free "Happy Star" meal (hamburger, fries, and

pop).   Here in South Dakota, I've been able to get Pizza Hut,

Wendy's, Taco John's, Dairy Queen, McDonald's, Subway, and

Baskin Robbins to provide merchandise coupons for use as


    One word of caution.   Competitive games, while fun at

first, can get old pretty fast, particularly for those

students who aren't the one's getting the right answers.

Also, such games tend to overemphasize facts while failing to

deal with broader historical/social science themes.   There

are other kinds of games that get more at the heart of what

history and the social sciences are really about, e.g. the

theater games described in the next chapter.

Rat Burger and play money go here.

                           CHAPTER VI

                    CLASSROOMS FULL OF STARS:


      In my undergraduate acting classes, we spent most of our

time playing theater games.    For the most part, I hated it.

The games didn't seem to help my acting at all.      Further, the

games seemed designed primarily to embarrass people, and I

felt uncomfortable most of the time.

      After graduation, I started teaching my own classes.

And what method was at the top of my list?      Theater games!

But not the same type of games that had made me feel so

uncomfortable, and which I had felt had no purpose.      Instead,

I tried to use theater games to build up my students, to give

them confidence, to turn them into stars.

      Now the first thing a star needs is energy, and lots of

it.   I get this energy through a process I call "IONizing"

the class.    In science, the word ion is used to describe a

charged particle, an atom that has gained or lost an

electron.    This means that an ion has a positive or negative

charge, and therefore is more highly reactive than an

ordinary atom.

      In the theater, we go through a process of ionization

too, a process that makes us able to better react with one

another.    Our ionization, however, is not achieved by losing

an electron.   Instead, the ionization process involves

cooperatION, concentratION, justificatION, motivatION, and

finally improvisatION.

    In developing effective theater games, it is important

to move through each of these steps slowly.    Build student

confidence by giving them easy tasks that they know they can

do before asking them to try harder things.    I have several

times made the mistake of trying to push new actors too fast,

and the result is that they become shy and hesitant.    Also,

try to remove all pressure to "perform."     Let a student know

he or she can simply pass anytime he can't think of anything

right away.


    Cooperation, the ability to work together, is an

absolute must for effective theater games.    The first thing I

tell my students is that, though the activities we are doing

are often noisy, I must be able to get their immediate

attentION whenever I need it.    I tell them to pretend to be

noisy third graders, but that when I call ATTENTION they are

to look right at me and be completely silent.

    The next cooperative skill necessary is to be in the

right place at the right time.   I have three commands for

students: STAGE FRONT, SEATS, and POSITIONS.    Whenever I call

one of these things, they must immediately go where they are


    The important point here is not so much that students

learn to respond to the ATTENTION and POSITION commands, but

that they gain confidence in being able to do something

theater-related.    If one adds additional skills slowly, one

can avoid entirely the "I can't do it" response that kills

theater games.

    The last cooperation exercise I use is the emotional

symphony.   I divide the class into groups, giving each group

a different sound to make.    I choose a conductor, whose job

it is to coordinate the sounds the groups make.    If he points

to a group, it must start making its sound.    If he raises his

hand, the sound has to get louder.    If he lowers his hand,

the sound is quieter.    He can have all the groups making

their sounds at once, or bring them in one at a time.

    Notice again the slow confidence building process.        Many

students would be a bit shy if asked to quack like a duck in

front of the class.    But if their whole group is quacking,

it's not so hard.


    The next important theater skill is concentration.       I

bring to class a number of interesting objects, passing them

around the class one at a time.    I ask each person to say

something different about the object, telling them to

concentrate on the object, not on anything going on around

them.   At this point, I tell them Dr. Art's guaranteed, never

fail preventative for stage fright: concentrate fully on

what's happening on stage and ignore the audience completely.


    Imagination is the next essential theater skill I teach.

To help develop students' imaginations, I play a similar

game to the concentration exercise above.    I pass around the

same kind of object, but this time asking the students to say

not what it is, but what it might be.

    Combining the concentration game with its imagination

variant is an activity of real value in actually teaching

social science concepts.   It's amazing what one's students

can figure out about a society by concentrating closely on

one artifact and using their imaginations to figure out why

the object has the characteristics it does.    Northern's Dr.

David Grettler is particularly good at showing students how

much one can learn from close observation.    He uses in his

classes everything from stone age tools, to pipe stems, to

fractured bones, to cans of Coke, to Chesapeake Bay water in

helping students to discover for themselves characteristics

of the economy, values, and beliefs of the people they are

studying.   In my own classes, I do a similar thing using

slides.   For example, by having students examine closely some

slides of Egyptian tomb paintings, I get them to discover a

great many things about Egyptian agriculture, technology,

life-style, religious beliefs, and aesthetics--and they often

discover things I myself have overlooked.

    Other useful concentration and imagination activities

include having the students describe in detail (not

forgetting smells and sounds) some past event in their own

lives, having students list as many of the details as they

can about some historical figure or event, and having

students describe in detail a scene that has been acted out

in front of them.   Such exercises are particularly good for

raising questions about historical epistemology.


    The most important key to developing effective theater

games is to get your students to concentrate on the

motivation of the characters they portray.   Try to convince

them that the important thing is not the character's voice,

not the character's costume, not the character's mannerisms,

but what the character wants.   Teach them that each character

in the scene must have a strong motivation, and that the

motivations of the characters must conflict in some way.

Stress that, when on stage, you concentrate solely on getting

the thing that your character wants.   When you get it, or

when there is no more chance of your getting it, then the

scene is over.    Stress also that the thing that makes scenes

work is conflict.     Remind them over and over that WITHOUT A

CONFLICT, THE SCENE WON'T WORK.     This is a hard idea to get

through students' heads, but once you succeed, you'll get

some wonderful scenes.

    Beginning-line improvisations are great for helping

students learn to establish conflicts on stage.       Divide

students into groups of two or three.     Give the students a

beginning line.    Tell them they must show on stage a conflict

that features that line.     Once the conflict is established,

i.e. once the audience sees clearly what the dispute is

about, they are done.     Give them a short time to talk about

what they are going to do, then have each group present its

conflict to the class.

    I've found the following particularly good "beginning

lines" for new actors.

    a.   I can't do it.    Never in a million years.

    b.   All right.    I'm not saying another word.

    c.   I love history.


    Once students can establish conflicts on stage, they are

ready to go on to complete improvised scenes.     Point out to

them that what makes a scene more interesting is

complications, extra things that get in the way of the

character getting what he/she wants.    To teach the art of

creating complications, I like to use chain improvisations.

In a chain improv, two actors start the scene.      Additional

actors, each with their own strong motivation, enter one at a

time, each one further complicating the scene.

    Here is a typical set of instructions for a chain


         1. You're a part-time musician who would like to be

    full time.     You've just found this great deal on a

    guitar and amplifier--and you're convinced that this

    equipment would give you the sound you need to really

    make it as a musician.     You must convince your wife to

    let you buy the amp and guitar--but it's got to be done

    right now.     The guy who owns the equipment is going to

    sell it to someone else if you don't make a decision


         2. Your husband has really been running up the

    bills lately.     To make matters worse, he hasn't been

    working steady.     Your dad has promised you he'll get

    your husband a decent job working at an electronics

    factory.     Your goal is to convince your husband to stop

    buying things on credit and to take the job your dad

    wants to give him.

         3.    You're the drummer of a rock band.    Actor #1 is

    your lead guitar player.     Rehearsal was supposed to

    start an hour ago.     Your job is to get #1 out of the

    house and to rehearsal.

            4.   You're the apartment manager.    This couple

    hasn't paid the rent in two months.       You want the rent

    paid or them out of the apartment--immediately.

            5.   You're actress number one's best friend.    You

    need her to baby sit for you right now.        Your regular

    sitter just called in sick, and you can't find anyone

    else.    You're supposed to be at work in 20 minutes, and

    if you're late again you're going to get fired.

            6.   You're actress number one's father.    You have a

    job in your electronics factory for her husband, but you

    have to get the position filled now.         You want to know

    if he's going to take the job or not tonight.

            7.   You're a police officer.   The neighbors have

    been complaining about the noise.       Get these people to

    quiet down.

    Once students can do a chain improvisation, they really

only need one more thing to make their scenes effective, a

good way of finishing up and resolving the conflicts they've

established.     A good way of teaching students how to do this

is to give them a set of end-line improvisations.

    End-line improvs are just like beginning line improvs,

except that the student is given the final line rather than

the initial line.    Remind students that their characters

still must have strong motivations, that THERE MUST BE A

CONFLICT, and that complications make the scene more

interesting.    With the "end line" to shoot at for a

conclusion, students almost always figure out how to resolve

their scenes.

    The following are useful end-lines:

         a.     I'm sure glad I voted.

         b.     Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

         c.     All's fair in love and war.

         d.     In a tomb in Egypt.

         e.     Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

    Once students know how to establish a conflict, add

complications, and resolve a scene, they can create effective

improvs around anything.    They can do object improvs (where

the conflict is developed around some interesting object),

position improvs (where the conflict is suggested by the

initial position of the actors on stage) and action improvs

(where the conflict arises from an action of one of the


    Watching students present improvs has been more fun than

anything else I've ever done in the classroom.    Once they get

good at it, students themselves far prefer theater games to

lectures or discussions.   But is it legitimate to spend

classroom time doing these sorts of games when one is

supposed to be teaching social studies?   The answer is

clearly yes.

    Theater games need characters with strong motivations, some

sort of conflict, complications, and an eventual resolution to

the conflict.   They are made more interesting when the characters

themselves have unique or at least unusual personalities.

    These are the same elements that make for good history.        Not

names and dates, but historical figures with strong motivations

coming into conflict with one another and attempting to resolve

these conflicts as best they can--this is what makes up history.

 Essential also is the exploration of how individual personality

traits affect these conflicts.

    The great historians and the great dramatists work alike.

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Henry IV, and Richard III are

outstanding as history as well as outstanding theater.

Thucydides' Peloponnesian War follows the same structural and

thematic principles as the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and

Euripides.   Clearly, we should be able to teach history and the

other social sciences through theater games.   The trick is to

figure out how.

    One good way is to use theater games for historical problem

solving.   Have students use real historical issues as the basic

conflicts in their scenes.    They might do this by depicting

imagined meetings of famous historical figures (Lincoln and

Jefferson Davis, Thomas Becket and Henry II, Charles V and Martin

Luther) or by featuring typical figures of the time period (a

manorial Lord and his peasants, a follower of Mohammed and a

follower of Zoroaster, a publican and a Pharisee).

    Students might also develop interesting scenes featuring

unlikely or impossible combinations of characters (The Apostle

Peter and Pope Alexander VI, Dennis Banks and Christopher

Columbus, Bill Clinton and John Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and

Eleanor Roosevelt.)   Also potentially useful is the historical

trial.   Students who know enough about the subjects might be able

to create very effective scenes putting Carrie Nation, Harry

Truman, or George Washington on trial.

    Probably the easiest area to use theater games is in

exploring contemporary issues.   Students are almost certain to be

able to develop good scenes around themes like gambling, crime,

drug and alcohol abuse, abortion, health care, sexual harassment,

women in the military, or religion in the schools.

    In most cases, however, students will never be able to come

up with productive social science scenes unless you give them

quite a bit of information on the subject they will be depicting.

 Most probably, you're going to have to lecture to them first.

Dull, old, boring lectures?   No, wonderful, exciting, interesting

and important lectures, lectures almost as much fun as the best

of theater games.   But is there such a thing?   Can lectures be

wonderful and exciting?   Yes--as you will see in our next

wonderful and exciting chapter.

                            CHAPTER VII

                      HERODOTUS HAD IT RIGHT:


    Do you remember the first time you had to give an oral

report or a speech in school?    It was probably one of the

hardest things you ever did!    Speaking in public is one of the

greatest fears of many people, and relatively few find

themselves comfortable standing up and speaking before a group

for even a few minutes.

    You are about to enter a profession which may require you

to make fifty minute public speeches five or six times a day

for the next thirty or forty years.    What are you, some kind of


    Also, do you remember listening to the speeches of your

fellow classmates?   There's no place that time seems to go more

slowly than in a high school speech tournament--unless it s the

average history lecture class.

    You are about to enter a profession where people are

forced to listen to you drone on for fifty minutes a day, five

days a week, about stuff they probably don't care about.      And

you're going to do this for the next thirty of forty years.

What are you, some kind of sadist?

    There really is something strange about this whole lecture

business.    The prominence of lectures in our educational system

is something of an accident.    Lectures are (in some ways) a

slow and inefficient way of communicating material--not nearly

as effective as books.    The lecture approach to learning begin

to dominate only in the Middle Ages when books were expensive

and rare.    Because students could not afford their own copies

of books, instructors would read to them while they took notes.

In many English universities, professors are still called

"readers," a reminder that their original job called on them

largely to read to their students.

    The educational establishment of today is dead set against

lectures.    Most methods classes suggest that discussions,

computerized instruction, interactive video, and various

cooperative learning techniques are all much superior to

lectures.    Prospective teachers are constantly reminded of the

supposed student view "What I hear, I forget; what I see, I

remember; what I do I understand."

    But despite the fact that educators disapprove of it, the

lecture is one of the best teaching methods--when done the

right way!

    The problem is that it is so easy to learn how to do

lectures wrong.    When one talks for a living long enough,

talking at length on any subject in the world becomes easy and

automatic.    One can speak for fifty minutes without any effort

at all, without even thinking about what one is saying, and

even without anything worth saying or worth listening to.

    The tendency to talk on and on without really saying

anything is one of the greatest occupational hazards of

pastors, teachers, and university professors (not to mention

politicians) and, in order to avoid it, one must be constantly

on guard.   The book of Job warns against those who "darkeneth

council by words without wisdom," while Proverbs notes that "In

the multitude of words there wanteth not sin."                   An old Sumerian

proverb reminds those of us who talk too much that it is "into

the open mouth, the fly enters."

    But while there are times when silence is the most

appropriate behavior, there are other times when the right

words are important.        "A word fitly spoken is like apples of

gold in pictures of silver."           But how are our words to be fitly

spoken?   How do we make sure our lectures are worth giving and


             1. Make sure your lecture has a clear purpose.

             2. Make sure your lecture has a clear, logical structure.

             3. Keep students minds engaged.

worth listening to?

    First of all, for a lecture to be effective, it must have

a clear purpose.   This is fairly easy if you've planned your

curriculum well.   For example, suppose you have chosen as your

theme for a course in U.S. history the motto "E pluribus unum,"

emphasizing America's attempt throughout her history to get

different kinds of people to work together as one united

nation.   Individual lectures can easily be related to this

theme.    The contrasting stories of the initial settlements at

Jamestown and Plymouth, for instance, can be presented as an

illustration of how vital cooperation of very different kinds

of people was from the beginning of U.S. history--and how

difficult it was to achieve.   The moral of the story is obvious

enough, and applicable enough to life in America today to make

the lecture relevant and to keep your students' interest.

    A second essential for an effective lecture is a clear,

logical structure.   Aristotle, who had a remarkable talent for

stating the obvious, said that a good story should have a

beginning, a middle and... well, you know the third element

without my stating it explicitly.   Why?   Because it follows a

familiar pattern.

    Patterned information is far easier to remember than

information not in a pattern.   Spend a few minutes trying to

memorize the following number sequence (pi to twelve decimal

places): 3 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9.   It's not at all easy.

Further, even if you do memorize the sequence, it's unlikely

that you'll retain it for any length of time.

    Now consider the phrase "See, I have a rhyme assisting/ my

feeble brain its tasks oft-times resisting."    Poor poetry,

perhaps, but once you've memorized this bit of doggerel you

know the first twelve places of pi.   Count the number of

letters in each word and you've got it.

    Why is it so much easier for most people to learn the

digits of pi in such a way?    Simply because the poem, bad as it

is, at least has a pattern, and our minds are so constructed

that patterned information is easier for us.

    Most people who speak for a living are well aware of the

importance of such patterns.    Pastors, for instance, typically

employee "three point" or "five point" sermons, knowing that

their congregations are much more likely to remember the

material in such a form.

    At one time, listeners could handle very complex patterns

of organization.    Cicero and Thucydides could reproduce with

great accuracy (sometimes even word for word) speeches that

 they had heard weeks and years before.     The reason was that, as

 part of their education, students in ancient Greece and Rome

 learned some basic rhetorical patterns.     One important pattern

 used widely in the ancient world was inverted parallel

 structure, a pattern where the speaker addresses a number of

 different points in one order, and then addresses the same

 points in reverse order (A B C D E E D C B A).     Of course, by

 the time the speaker was a little more than halfway through,

 the audience knew exactly where he was going in the rest of his


         Today's students are not trained to follow such patterns,

 and if one wants to employ a structure any more sophisticated

 than that of the three point sermon, one almost has to provide

 an outline.

         Providing a class with a fairly detailed outline of

 exactly what you intend to cover helps the students understand

 the material better and stay focussed on the overall theme of

 the lecture.     It is usually not good, however, to give the

 students Xeroxed or dittoed outlines.14    Instead, it is best to

 have them copy an outline from the board or from an overhead,

 adding to the outline details that seem to them particularly


      Most teachers find that students tend to remember material
far better when they go to the extra effort of copying the
outline themselves.

          The ability to take good notes is an important skill for

  your students to develop, one they will certainly need in

  college.     Many students, however, gain almost no experience in

  note taking in their high school classes.     Insist that your

  students learn to take notes.     Check their notes to be sure

  they are doing a good job.     Remind them you are doing them a

  favor, teaching them a skill they will certainly need.15

          A third essential for an effective lecture is to keep

  students' minds engaged.     A lecture full of the best material

  in the world is no good if students aren't listening--and even

  if they're listening, it's not good if their minds aren't

  actively involved.     So how do we get students' minds on our



      It is difficult to decide whether to recommend the use of
overhead projectors or chalk boards for lecture outlines. The
overhead has many advantages: you can prepare the notes in
advance, you can save your notes for use in future lectures, you
can make your notes more legible, and you can more easily
incorporate maps, charts, diagrams, cartoons, etc. But the
overhead has some great disadvantages too. Number one, it shifts
the focus of attention from the instructor to the projection, not
usually a good idea. Also, like almost any audio-visual aid,
overhead projections tend to have a soporific effect on the
class. But maybe with a class of hyper eighth graders . . .

1. Use a good "hook."

2. Ask frequent questions.

3. Assume the persona of historical characters (role play).

4. Design tests to encourage mastery of the overall picture.

5. Use plenty of energy.

6. Include the whole class.

7. Use visual aids.

8. Use analogies to student experience.

9. Use humor.

10. Assume the role of a storyteller..

      Obviously, before trying to keep students' minds engaged,

one needs to have their attention in the first place, and so

the first step is to come up with a way of capturing their

attention, what public speaking teachers call a "hook."

      Now there are several types of hooks.   One is the

"gimmick" hook.   Gimmick hooks are easy enough to come up with.

 Anything loud, radical, violent, or out of the ordinary will

do.   Shoot off a starter's pistol.   Beat on a drum.   Come into

class screaming, "It's over! It's over! It's over!      Dress up

as a Civil War soldier or as Socrates.

      Gimmick hooks are great and a lot of fun.    But there is

one problem with gimmick hooks: they get the students'

attention temporarily, but lose it again as soon as the gimmick

is over or its novelty wears off.

      Another type of hook is the personal hook.    Beginning your

class with a story about yourself is often an extremely

effective way of getting attention.    I talk to my classes about

my wife and kids, my own experiences in high school and

college, getting a traffic ticket, my horrible 20th high school

reunion--both the painful and joyful events of my life.

Whenever I talk about such things, they are even more attentive

than usual.

      Personal hooks are also great and a lot of fun.    But there

is a problem with personal hooks: they too get students'

  attention temporarily, but lose it again as soon as one turns

  away from personal events to talking about the actual subject

  matter of the day.

          The only hook that really works is the intellectual hook.

   The intellectual hook involves raising some question in the

  students' minds that they might really like to see answered.

  Then one has to somehow show that the topic you are going to

  address might at least partially answer that question.

          Coming up with such a hook is hard, and to develop a good

  intellectual hook usually depends on knowing a great deal about

  what your students actually think about and care about.16     Even

  then, it's not always easy to figure out how to relate your

  students' interest to the topic you want to discuss.     It

  sometimes takes me hours to come up with the "hooks" for my

  lectures.     Nevertheless, it is time well spent.   Once I get a

  really good start to a lecture, I find that the rest of the

      Relating to students superficial concerns (tonight's
dance or finishing their homework for algebra) isn't what I mean
here. In a social science class, it's important to address their
deeper concerns: justice, love, religion. And yes, students do
care about such things. I find that students are generally
interested enough in the struggle between good and evil that they
will pay close attention to any story where these two forces are
at work and in which the outcome is unclear. Love stories are
even better, and religious tales are not far behind. But, of
course, those who dominate our educational institutions and write
our history texts don't believe in good and evil anymore. Love
for them is simply an illusion evolved by our species to aid in
survival. They consider it a violation of the sacred principle
of separation of church and state to talk about God. No wonder
so much of our "history" is boring.

lecture almost writes itself.

    After you get your students' attention, the next job is to

keep it.    One way is to ask questions of the students in

intervals throughout your lecture.    For instance, when I

discuss the ways in which Egyptian society provided physical

security to its members, I begin by asking the students to

suggest different things that are needed to ensure physical

security and different ways these things might be provided.

The possibility of being asked a question at any time during

the lecture encourages students to stay alert and involved.

    It is particularly effective to ask students anticipatory

questions, questions like "What would you do in these

circumstances?"   These kinds of questions don't require

specific factual information, but they do require the student

to think about different possible courses of action: in other

words, to think historically.

    Note that when one asks anticipatory-type questions any

student answer helps, even a "wrong" answer, i.e. a suggested

course of action not actually taken by the historical figures

involved.    "Wrong" answers help students to see different

possible courses history might have taken and help remove the

"fate" fallacy from their study of history.

    Notice also that asking questions may end up turning your

lecture into a discussion--but a superior kind of discussion,

one well directed and focussed and backed up with specific

information.   Students suggest possible courses of action,

while you supply the data which confirms their suggestion or

explains why events followed another course.

    Another way of maintaining student attention is to act the

part of historical characters during your lecture.   To do this

doesn't require any great dramatic skill.   Simply adding

dramatic emphasis to something like King Henry's outburst when

thwarted by Thomas Becket ("What a pack of fools and knaves I

have reared in my house that not one of them will avenge me of

this turbulent priest!") adds a lot to a lecture.    But even

more effective is to simply interact with your class as if you

were a historical figure and they were people living at the

same time.   For instance, in explaining the Egyptian Book of

the Dead to my students, I temporarily assume the persona of an

Egyptian priest, and then play out the following scene:

    DR. ART:    You're a pretty good person, aren't you.

    STUDENT:   Oh yes.

    DR. ART:    You're pretty sure that, when you die, you're

                going to go to the good kingdom of Osirus,

                aren't you.

    STUDENT:   Of course.

    DR. ART:    But tell me honestly now, when you stand before

                the jackal-headed god Anubis on Judgment Day, is

           there anything you might be a little worried

           about?   One or two little things you've done

           wrong that just might cause a bit of concern?

STUDENT:   Well. . .

DR. ART:   Now it would be a real shame if a good person

           like you ended up in hell just because of a few

           mistakes, wouldn't it.

STUDENT:   I guess so.

DR. ART:   Look, I just happen to be a priest of Osirus,

           and I have with me a very special book.     If

           you're buried with this book, it'll make sure

           you get past Anubis into the good kingdom of

           Osirus, and the few little things you've done

           wrong won't make any difference.     And I can give

           you the book real cheap--say, five bushels of


STUDENT:   Sounds great.

DR. ART:   (to class as a whole) Now I know that some of

           you aren't nearly as good as old Student One

           here, but it doesn't matter.    This book is so

           powerful, it will guarantee that anyone can get

           into Osirus' kingdom, no matter what you've

           done.    Now you've got a choice.   You can get

           into the kingdom of Osirus the old fashioned way

               by leading a good life and never doing anything

               wrong, or you can buy a copy of the book from

               me.   What will it be?

    DR. ART:   (to another student) Lead a good life or buy the


    STUDENT 2: I'll buy the book.

    DR. ART:   (to another student) A good life or buy the


    STUDENT 3: The book.

    DR. ART:   (to another student): A good life or the book?

    STUDENT 4: I'll lead . . . No, I'll buy the book.

    The whole scene takes no longer than it would to explain

The Book of the Dead in traditional lecture format.    Students

are fully engaged in the class during the presentation, and

they continue to pay attention to what follows.   Also, I find

that at test time my students almost always remember what the

Book of the Dead was and why it contributed to a breakdown of

morality in New Kingdom Egypt.   And speaking of tests...

    One important way of making sure students stay alert is to

design tests that encourage students to master the whole

structure of an argument rather than isolated facts.    You've

all noticed that whenever a teacher says "this might be on the

test," every pen in the class begins to move.   Make it clear

that everything you say in class might be useful on the test--

or when they're standing before Anubis on Judgement Day.

    Another key to maintaining student interest is to use

plenty of energy.   If you're obviously excited and enthusiastic

about your material, students will be more likely to pay

attention and perhaps be a bit excited about it themselves.

Northern's geography professor (Dr. David Grettler) is

constantly saying things like, "This is really cool" when he

introduces a new topic--and his whole manner convinces students

that it is.   They always stay awake in that class.   A warning,

though: never dress up a dull lecture by feigning excitement.

To do so is like calling wolf when there is no wolf--and when

you're really excited students won't be.

    Another warning: energy is not simply volume and a lot of

movement.   Any good actor knows how to stand still as a post

and almost whisper his words and yet give an impression of

power and energy.

    A third warning: movement must be directed.   It adds

variety and interest to your lecture to move away from the

podium, but move somewhere specific.   Move to the chalkboard,

to a map, to the students on one side of the room, to the

students on the other.   Don't simply pace back and forth.    Many

students find it very annoying.

    Maintaining student interest is easier if one constantly

attempts to include the whole class, not just a few "good"

students.    One way to do this is to ask "group" questions,

where the whole class is asked to respond in unison.      For

instance, my introductory history lecture usually includes

something like the following exchange:

    DR. ART:     History is the most wonderful, most exciting,

                 most important, and most interesting of all

                 subjects, right?

    CLASS:       (Silence)

    DR. ART:     No, No.    Remember, I am unfair.   Your grade is

                 in my hands.    You'll have to take this class

                 again if I don't pass you.    Now, let's try

                 again.    History is the most wonderful, most

                 exciting, most important, and most interesting

                 of all subjects, right?

    CLASS:       (With a shout) RIGHT!!!!

    There are times when eliciting such a group response is by

far the most appropriate way of handling the subject at hand.

The Spartan assembly, for instance, voted by shouting (the side

shouting the loudest winning the vote), and there is no better

way of demonstrating the advantages of the Spartan system than

to put a few typical questions before the "Spartans" in your


    The use of appropriate visual aids can also help maintain

student interest in your lecture.     Maps, charts, historical

artifacts, and slides can all be useful.    The "object lesson"

approach often used in Sunday school classes can also work very

well in a history lecture.    But the best visual aid of all is

the student.   Arranging your students in historical tableaux

(Henry IV at Canossa, the assassination of Julius Caesar, etc.)

provides a memorable reinforcement of the event discussed.

    I also like the invisible visual aid.    With only a very

little skill at mime, you can make your students "see" objects

far more elaborate than you could ever actually have in the

classroom.   One of my favorite uses of an invisible visual aid

is in discussing the French Encyclopedia's article on fencing.

This article gives the advice that one should "never make a

thrust without being prepared to parry," and has an

illustration showing what would happen if you ignored this

advice.   I have one of my students come up to help me recreate

the illustration.    I hand him a "sword" (invisible, of course,

but students are remarkably good at making each other see these

invisible swords.)   I take my own sword in hand and make my

thrust at the student's head--but without, alas, being ready to

parry.    The student ducks (usually) and thrusts his own sword

exactly where you would expect.   Freeze.   The students'

imaginations do the rest.    (Although some of them, I suppose,

wish the swords were real.)

    Another way of getting and maintaining student interest is

to use frequent analogies to students' own experiences.     One of

my former methods students, Ken VanderVorst, was particularly

adept at finding such analogies.

    Ken began one of his presentations by discussing a

hypothetical high school football team.   He described the team

as a talented team, but one that, during the course of the

season, began to run into problem after problem.   The coach

couldn't decide what offense he wanted to use, and wouldn't let

the team run its most effective plays in games. The local

paper, upbeat at first, became more and more negative,

constantly criticizing the team and the coach.   The fans soon

found it fun to put down the football players and make fun of

them.   When injured team members came off the field, the

hometown fans booed them and spit on them.   Even the

cheerleaders started leading cheers for the other team.     This,

said Ken, is the story of the U.S. effort in Vietnam.

    Such an analogy, whether you agree with it or not, is

exceedingly powerful.   Everyone in the class was not only

attentive, but eager to hear what was coming next.

    Of all ways of keeping students' attention, one of the

best is the use of humor.   That, of course, is why I spent so

much time on humor in Chapter IV, which I'm sure you have by

now memorized.

    The best way of all, however, for keeping students'

attention is to turn yourself into a storyteller.    Students may

be bored during lectures, but almost no one is bored when

listening to a story.

    But does history lend itself to story telling?    Of course

it does.   All of the older histories (those of Herodotus,

Thucydides, Tacitus and Livy--not to mention I and II Samuel

and I and II Maccabees) are filled with fascinating stories,

and I get great responses from my students by simply retelling

the stories of the important historians from the time of

Herodotus to the time of Voltaire and Gibbon.   It's only the

modern "professional" historians who have forgotten how to

write interesting stuff--and whose books, with good reason, are

read only by other historians and unlucky undergraduates.

    So how do you get your material into story form?    Many of

you in your English classes studied what are called the five

narrative essentials: plot, character, theme, setting, and

tone.   These characteristics of good story writing also are the

characteristics of a good lecture.


    Writing a plot involves arranging the different elements

of the story in such a way as to be attractive to readers.

Generally, a good plot has at its heart an important conflict,

a conflict interesting enough to grab the readers' attention

  from the opening moments of the story17.    Complicating

  incidents build the tension, until finally toward the end of

  the story there is a climax where the conflict is finally

  resolved.     There usually follows a short denouement in which

  the author ties up any loose ends.

          Political history lends itself especially easily to such

  arrangement of material, but it's certainly possible to put

  social and cultural history into this form as well.     Identify

  and introduce a central conflict (slavery, women's rights,

  etc.) and follow that conflict through increasing complications

  until the conflict is, at least temporarily, resolved.

          Many philosophies of history (e.g. those of Toynbee,

  Spengler, Vico, Hegel, and Marx) provide well-thought-out

  models of conflict, complication, and ultimate resolution in

  the affairs of nations and civilizations.     Unfortunately, few

  history majors get much training in philosophy of history as

  undergraduates.     I recommend strongly spending some time

      In fiction, the central conflict of a story is frequently
introduced through what is called an "initial incident," some
event that gives the protagonist a problem to solve and leads
naturally into the rest of the story. Selection of a good
"initial incident" also helps with historical story telling and
is an excellent way of "hooking" students' attention. Some
English teachers point out four typical types of conflict in most
fiction: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself, and man
vs. the supernatural. Historical conflicts are usually presented
as man vs. man type conflicts, but the other three are worth
considering. Herodotus' presentation of historical events as
conflicts between man and fate or man and nemesis (versions of
the man vs. supernatural conflict) work extremely well.

investigating this area on your own.


    Most stories have a clear protagonist, a character who is

attempting to resolve the central conflict of the story and

with whom the reader is supposed to identify.   In general, if

the readers don't care about the protagonist, the story will be

a failure.

    In historical conflicts, it's usually easy to pick out a

protagonist or, more frequently, a group of protagonists.    What

isn't always quite so easy is to ensure students' sympathy for

the protagonist.

    When writing fiction, sympathy for the protagonist can be

achieved in several ways.   Readers tend to sympathize most with

characters who are in some ways like themselves.   They also

tend to sympathize with those who have been victims of

injustice.   But the easiest way to gain a reader's sympathy for

a character is simply to tell the story from that character's

point of view.   Readers almost automatically identify most with

the character whose point of view the author uses most.   This

is reinforced when that character is the first one introduced

in the narrative.

    The same techniques work when trying to elicit student

sympathy and interest in historical figures.    Show the students

how those characters are in some ways like themselves.    Show

how these figures were victims of injustice.    Most important,

choose carefully a point of view that most naturally encourages

students to identify with the appropriate figures.

    Note that the very best authors are those who master

                               multiple points of view.   Homer,

                               for instance, makes you identify

                               with all his characters, both

                               Greek and Trojan.   In historical

                               story telling too, it is often

                               very effective to use multiple

                               points of view, e.g. presenting

                               the story of the events leading

                               to the American Civil War from

                               both the Northern and Southern



    "Theme" refers both to the subject matter of a story and

to the author's message.   It is theme, as much as anything

else, that separates great literature from mind candy.    Great

literature entertains, but it also teaches.    So does a good

history lecture.   A good lecture should have at its core some

lesson about life.   It should reveal something about a too-

little understood aspect of human nature, demonstrate the

consequences of certain types of behavior, or help the reader

better understand man and his place in the universe.   Francis

Bacon said that the study of history makes one wise--and if it

doesn't, why bother?   It certainly doesn't make us rich!


     One of the things many readers like best about a story is

the place it creates in their minds.   Shakespeare's Forest of

Arden, Tolkien's Middle Earth, and Kipling's Indian jungle are

magical places, places readers want to be, at least in their

imaginations.   There is no frigate like a book... unless it's

a good history lecture!   We have an enormous number of

interesting locales for our students to visit from the comfort

(?) of their school desks.

     Prof. Bill Bowsky likes to begin his lectures on Medieval

history with the old T.V. line, "Return with us now to those

thrilling days of yester-year..."   A great introduction, and

exactly what we should be asking our students to do!   Set the

scene: describe for your students the sights, sounds, and

aromas that provide the background to the events you describe.


     Tone is the trickiest of the narrative essentials for

students to understand and identify, but it is still a key to

effective story telling and to effective lectures.   Tone tells

the readers how you want them to react to your words: whether

you want them to laugh or to cry, to be angry or to be glad.

        Establishing the tone you want is difficult in written

English, but when giving a lecture it's easy.      Most students

can discern the tone of the lecture with nothing more than

facial expressions and tone of voice to go on.      As a result,

one can freely change tone back and forth during a lecture, an

exceptionally effective technique in keeping students

interested and alert.     A swing from humor to dead seriousness

can really drive home a point.18

        Changing diction works well too.   While in written work a
                                                               e in
                                                               to be
                                                               in a
                                                               e of
                                                               e can

    All of the above may seem complicated and difficult, but

there is a short cut.   We are exposed to story telling so much,

and we tell so many stories in everyday conversation that most

of us have the art of story telling already.   The trick is to

use it.

    The key here, it seems to me, is simply attitude, the way

we look at what we are doing when we address our students.    If

we can enjoy talking about history in the same way we enjoy

telling our friends about the interesting things that happened

on our last vacation, and if we are as excited about history as

                                                             , it

                                                             s you

about the victory of our favorite basketball team, we can

transform our lectures into what they ought to be, the most

exciting stories ever told.

                           CHAPTER VIII



       In the last exciting chapter, I noted that one of the real

dangers confronting those who make our living as public

speakers is that we get so good at it that we can fill fifty

minutes of lecture without saying anything at all.      When

leading a discussion, the danger is even worse.     One can easily

develop the skill of getting other people talking and having

such a good time talking to each other that they will easily

fill a fifty minute class--without accomplishing anything at


       When I was an undergraduate at Stanford, nearly all of my

classes were seminars.    Most of them were fun.   Discussion was

usually lively.    Students seldom complained.   The problem was

that very rarely did we learn anything from the discussions.

       Most of the professors didn't seem to care very much.    As

long as the conversation was lively, they hardly cared if we

stayed on topic.    But there were a few whose seminars were

different--just as much fun, just as lively, just as

interesting--but also tremendous learning experiences.

       What makes the difference?   How does a teacher make sure

that discussion is an effective teaching method and that time

spent in class discussion is well spent?    In general, the keys

to a good discussion are the same as those for an effective


              1. Make sure your discussion has a clear purpose.

              2. Make sure your discussion has a clear, logical structure.

              3. Keep students' minds engaged.


The Purpose of Discussion

    Like a lecture, a discussion should have a clear purpose.

Discussions may be used to address the same types of

objectives as lectures, and it is often a good idea to use both

lecture and discussion formats in addressing the important

themes of your unit.        However, discussion generally is most

appropriate when you want your class to make some progress

toward understanding large, open-ended questions.                     For example,

one of the best seminars I took as an undergraduate dealt with

the question of why few writers after the time of Aeschylus,

Sophocles, and Euripides were able to write truly successful

tragedies.   For those of us in the class, all drama majors and

aspiring writers, this was a question we would really have

liked to be able to answer, and having this big question as an

underlying theme kept the whole seminar in tight focus.

    One important goal of discussion is to develop students'

skills in analysis and synthesis.   Analysis comes from a Greek

word which means to pull apart.   Synthesis comes from a Greek

word which means to put together.   Questions should be designed

to ask students to do both those things.   One generally starts

by pulling apart an issue.   What's really at stake here?    What

does all this mean?   By the conclusion of the discussion,

students should be able to take their new knowledge, combine it

with other things they've learned elsewhere, and use it in

original ways.

    Another goal of discussion is to enhance students'

communication skills.   Discussion should be designed to help

them learn to voice their own ideas confidently, to listen to

others with respect, and to work together in gaining a better

understanding of an issue.

Organizing a Discussion

    Good discussions require just as much planning as good

lectures, sometimes more.    I sometimes find it useful to give

my students a discussion outline every bit as detailed as the

outlines I give them for my lectures.    But even with a detailed

plan of exactly what questions one wants to ask and what

direction one wants to go, discussions can easily get off


    One job of a discussion leader is to keep steering the

discussion back to the question at hand.    This doesn't mean

never allowing a discussion to go off on a tangent for a while,

but it does mean one must constantly try to relate the matters

students bring up to the central question and to try to meld

everything brought up in discussion into a coherent whole.

    One of the most important jobs of the discussion leader is

to keep track of what has already been said and to make

frequent reviews of the general course of the discussion up to

that point.    Some discussion leaders have good enough memories

that they can keep track of rather complicated arguments in

their heads.    For most of us, however, the best way to stay on

target is to use the chalkboard to keep track of the different

points the students make.    Keeping track of the students'

contributions on the chalkboard provides important positive

reinforcement.    A student whose suggestion is put on the board

knows automatically that the teacher was paying attention to

what he/she said and considered it important.

    Some teachers prefer to keep track of the course of

discussion by jotting down notes on paper.   This has several

advantages, the most important of which is that the teacher

ends up with a record of what has/has not been covered in

discussion--very useful when preparing/evaluating tests.    Also,

if one jots down some notes not only on what was said but who

said it, one gets a much better idea of which students are

participating actively in the class.

Keeping students' minds engaged

    Students who major in the social sciences almost always

enjoy talking about history, sociology, psychology,

anthropology and the related disciplines.    With a class full of

such students, getting a good discussion going is easy.    One

question can lead to a solid hour of profitable discussion.

    The average junior/senior high school student doesn't get

involved in discussion so readily.   Many are very hesitant to

speak up in class, and most need to be convinced that the

discussion topic at hand is relevant to things they care about.

 As a   result, the teacher must pay just as much attention to

keeping students' minds engaged during discussion time as


during lectures.

             1.     Use a good hook.

             2.     Include the whole class in discussion.

             3.     Make frequent use of small groups.

             4.     Positively reinforce all student answers.

             5.     Design tests to encourage mastery of the ideas presented
    during discussion.

             6.     Make sure students are prepared for discussion.

             7.     Ask the right kind of questions.

    Let me say once again that, in order to keep students'

minds   engaged, it is important to capture their attention in

the first place.      A good discussion needs the same kind of hook

as a good lecture, something that will make the students forget

about their other concerns and think about what's going on in


    Secondly, it's important to include the whole class in

discussion.   Most classes have two or three students who will

respond to almost any question and who enjoy elaborating on the

themes brought up for discussion.   It's very easy for a teacher

to think that a discussion went well because these few students

had a lot to say and there was no "dead" time.    But if the rest

of the class made no contributions and paid no attention,

discussion time was something of a waste.

    One excellent way of encouraging a greater percentage of

students to participate in discussion is to break up the class

into small groups (groups of three or four work best).   Have

each group discuss some of the discussion questions on their

own, then bring the groups back together to report on what they

came up with.   While organizing a discussion in this way takes

extra time, it almost always ensures a far higher percentage of

students participating actively in discussion.

    Another important way of keeping students' minds engaged

is to positively reinforce all student answers.   Most students

are hungry for recognition, and if their answers are commended

in some way in front of their peers, they are more likely to

want to respond to further questions.

    Be very careful not to make a student feel foolish for

suggesting a wrong answer.    Let the students know that you are

grateful for their responses even when their answers aren't

right.   Preface your answer by saying something like, "Well,

that's a good suggestion, but..."

    Another way of making sure students pay attention to

discussion is to design questions that encourage them to master

both sides of an issue, and let them know in advance what these

questions are likely to be.    Suppose, for instance, one were

leading a class discussion on abortion.    A good question might

be something like the following:

    Abortion is without a doubt one of the most troubling

    ethical issues facing American society today.      Both sides

    of the debate have produced extensive arguments showing

    that their position is the "moral" one, but neither side

    seems able to convince the other.     Why?   Why are those

    opposed to abortion certain that they are right?      Why are

    those in favor of abortion so certain they are right?        Do

    you think it possible that there will ever be a consensus

    on abortion in America?

    This question requires students to master both sides of

the abortion debate.   Those who are in favor of abortion must

listen to and remember the arguments of those who are against

it if they are to have an adequate answer to the question, just

as those who are against abortion must listen to and remember

the arguments of those who favor it.

    Another key in keeping students' minds engaged is to make

sure they are properly prepared for discussion.   If they are

going to be discussing a particular author's work, it's vital

that they've actually done their reading!   Giving the students

study questions in advance helps a lot, but usually the only

way to be sure most students will read an assignment is to give

them a quiz on the reading at the beginning of the class period

for which it is assigned.

Ask the Right Kind of Questions

    Probably the most important key in keeping students' minds

engaged is to ask good questions, questions the students will

want to answer.   Unfortunately, it is hard to tell exactly what

type of question is going to work with any particular class.

Students tend not to answer questions that are too easy ("When

did Columbus discover America?").   Only a few students like the

"Trivial Pursuit" type question ("What name did Confederates

give the Battle of Bull Run?").   Far better is a question that

asks the students to figure out a puzzle ("Why did geographers

of the late 15th century--say in the early 1490's for instance,

all of a sudden feel convinced that they could do much better

work than Ptolemy and the ancient geographers?" or "What

different criteria did Union and Confederate troops seem to be

using in the names they chose for Civil War battles?").

    Usually, the best discussion questions are those that have

multiple answers.   For instance, when I discuss the Epic of

Gilgamesh with my class, I often ask the question, "What would

the people of ancient Mesopotamia particularly have liked about

this poem?"   This broad question leads to further questions on

the poetic/literary technique of the poem, the characters in

the poem, the action of the story, etc.

    Many of the best students like plenty of time to think

over their responses before they actually say anything.      Asking

questions with multiple answers gives them time to collect

their thoughts while students a bit less hesitant are giving

their answers.

    Perhaps the most effective way to formulate good

discussion questions is to put ourselves in the students' place

and ask a couple of questions of ourselves.   When I was a

student, would I have wanted to answer this question?   When I

was a student, would I have learned something from attempting

to answer the question?   If the answer to both questions is

yes, you've got a good question, and are well on your way to a

discussion that is not only lively, but worth your students'


                            CHAPTER IX



    One of the most difficult tasks for the beginning teacher

is to come up with a good way of evaluating student

performance.    The simplest method is to use the test-bank that

comes with the textbook you use and give the students periodic

multiple choice/short answer tests over the material covered.

Most of the software allows you to add questions of your own so

that you can include on the test things you talked about in

class but that weren't covered in the textbook.

    The problem is that multiple choice tests aren't effective

in measuring some of the most important student outcomes.   A

multiple choice exam does a good job testing students' ability

to recognize facts and theories, but such exams do not say much

about the students' ability to use the facts for any larger

purpose or to evaluate the material they have studied.   It is

essential, then, that in addition to multiple choice tests, we

have some other way of measuring student progress.

    Some of this measurement is informal.    One can tell what

students are picking up by listening to what they say in class

discussion and by how well they respond to questions you ask in


    The best way to evaluate student progress, however, is by

requiring of them some writing: essay tests, journals, short

essays, or term papers.   Unfortunately, all four methods

require a lot of extra work on the teacher's part, and it takes

a pretty dedicated teacher to give student writing the

attention it deserves.    Some suggestions for using your

correcting time as efficiently as possible and for encouraging

better writing:

         1. Circle or mark grammatical and spelling mistakes

    as you read throughout the students' work, but don't

    supply the corrections.    Students need to know they are

    making errors, but they learn better if they have to

    figure out for themselves exactly what the error is.

         2. Handle each student paper only once.    Don't

    shuffle the bad papers to the bottom.    Force yourself to

    correct each paper as it comes up.     This saves time in the

    long run.

         3. In your comments, try to focus on one or two

    specific things the student could have done better in his


         4. Be as positive as possible with your comments.

    Try to start and finish your remarks with something


         5. Instill in students the habit of proofreading

    their work and of having someone else (preferably a

    parent) look at their work before it is turned in.    Giving

    extra points for a parent's signature is not a bad idea.

         6. Encourage students to use word processors on all

    outside-of-class assignments.     Try to make sure students

    who don't have computers at home have access to school

    computers for their final drafts.

         7. Be sure your own written work is a model of

    correct grammar, spelling, and sentence construction.

    Have someone else proofread your handouts before copying

    them for the students.

    One excellent way of giving students the writing practice

they need is to have them keep a journal.   Reading student

journals is often delightful, and it can give you perhaps the

clearest picture of how the students are actually reacting to

the material in your class.   Below are some of the suggested

journal topics I use in my U.S. history class:

         1.Read any of the stories you skipped in the section

    on immigrants in Stories of the American Experience.

    Compare the experiences of different types of immigrants--

    Jews, Armenians, Irishmen, etc.    Explain why so many of

    these stories are rather depressing.

         2. Pick up at the library a collection of F. Scott

    Fitzgerald short stories.    Look especially for the stories

"The Rich Boy," "Summer Dreams," and "The Diamond as Big

as the Ritz."    Tell me what you think of Fitzgerald's

depiction of the rich of his day.    Is he sympathetic with

the problems of this class?    Critical?     Something of both?

        4. Read any of the books in J. D. Fitzgerald's Great

Brain series. (J. D. is no relation to F. Scott!!)       Note

the contrast in tone between this Fitzgerald's work and

that of other American writers.    Why do you suppose adult

American fiction so seldom has the same positive point of


        5. Pick up at the library a collection of either

Flannery O'Conner or William Faulkner short stories.       Note

how a "southern" viewpoint affects these writers.      Discuss

also their criticisms of southern society.

        6. Read Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech.   Do you

think this an effective answer to the demands of the

isolationists?    Would you have been convinced by this

speech of the necessity of becoming involved in European

affairs?    If so, why?   If not, why not?

        7. Read some of the earlier material in the Black

Voices book.     Compare this to immigrant literature.     Also,

explain why so much of the finest American literature is

written by those outside the "mainstream" of U.S. life.

Term papers and other research papers are much more

difficult for the teacher to guide and grade than journals,

and, as a result, many social studies teachers avoid assigning

such papers altogether.    Writing research papers does teach

some valuable skills, however, and it's good to assign at least

one such paper during the year.

       The main problem with the research paper is plagiarism.

Student research papers are typically just information they've

copied or paraphrased out of one or two books they picked up at

the library.    Never let a student get away with this.19

       The best way to avoid plagiarism is to assign papers that

require some originality on the student's part.    Assigning a

report on the Battle of Gettysburg is just asking for

plagiarism.    Asking a student to compare the battle of

Gettysburg to that of Antietam is better.    Better still would

be an assignment asking the student to decide which Civil War

battle was most important and why.    Best of all would be an

assignment asking the student to compare both speeches made at

the commemoration of the Gettysburg battlefield and to decide

which better summarizes the significance of the battle and the


     Students do best when they have clear guidelines for their
papers. In addition to giving them suggested topics, give them
an idea of the length of the paper and the main things you will
be looking for as you grade. In addition, you might give them
the following guidelines:

       He might end up as a senator from Massachusetts.

                        (OR AT LEAST ACCEPT)

     The ability to express ideas clearly on paper is one of
the most important attributes of the successful student.
Fortunately, it is a skill that, with a little effort, almost
all students can acquire. If you follow the suggestions I give
you below, I can pretty much guarantee you a passing grade on
any paper you turn in.

1.    Read carefully any written instructions the teacher gives
      you for the paper assignment. Pay careful attention in
      class as the teacher explains what he/she wants you to do.
       Be sure to follow any guidelines he/she gives you
      regarding length and format and (above all) topic choice.
       There's no quicker way to fail than to write a one page
      summary of the latest novel you've read when the teacher
      has asked for 10 pages comparing the imagery used by Keats
      and Yeats--especially if you turn in the paper three weeks
      after the due date!

2.    Begin research right away. There's nothing more
      frustrating than finding out the day before an assignment
      is due that a book you need has been checked out by
      another student, or that the book store has sent back that
      text you didn't buy because you didn't think you would
      have to use it.

3.    Jot down ideas for your paper as you read/do research.
      Mark any passages that you think you may later cite in
      support of your thesis. DON'T MARK LIBRARY BOOKS!!!!

4.    Be sure to have a thesis: some point you are trying to
      prove. State this thesis clearly. Usually, your thesis
      statement will be the last sentence of your first

5.    Now try "brainstorming," i.e. jotting down a list of
      things you may want to include in your paper.

6.    If necessary, revise your thesis.

7.    Outline your paper.

8.    Write your paper. Don't worry if everything's not perfect
      the first time. You can always go back and revise.

      revision. . .

9.    Never fall in love with your first draft. First drafts
      never represent your best work. If at first your paper
      doesn't seem like "A" work, revise and revise again.

10.   Make sure each paragraph of your paper contains a clear
      topic sentence. Each topic sentence should relate to your
      general thesis. Most often, the topic sentence will be
      the first sentence of the paragraph.

11.   Make sure everything in each paragraph supports your topic
      sentence. (The fancy name for this is "coherence." If
      your teacher tells you your paper lacks coherence, he/she
      means that the sentences/paragraphs are not properly
      joined together.)

12.   Proofread your paper carefully. Errors in spelling and
      grammar make your work look second-rate.

13.   Let someone else proofread your paper before turning in a
      final draft. It's nice to get the opinion of someone who
      writes well, but anyone who can read can tell you if your
      ideas come across clearly or not.

14.   Be sure to avoid plagiarism, i.e. taking someone else's
      ideas/words without giving them proper credit. Remember
      that even if you mention your source in your footnotes,
      you may still be plagiarizing.

      The best way to handle secondary source material is to
      remember that while you are not an expert on the topic
      discussed by the book, you are (or can be) an expert on
      what the author of the book says. Suppose, for instance,
      that while doing a research paper on the Ante-Nicene
      church, you come across the following remark:

           The Montanist eschatological position was almost the
           reverse of that of the gnostics. They were believers
           in the literal resurrection, believers in the
           millennium, and especially firm believers in prophecy
           and its fulfillment.

      The proper way of using this idea in your own paper is to
      say something like this:

           According to Art Marmorstein, Montanist eschatology
           was very different from that of the gnostics. He

            notes that, unlike the gnostics, the Montanists
            believed in the resurrection, the millennium, and in
            the fulfillment of prophecy.

    The problem with the above guidelines is that they don't

address the main reason students write poorly.   Students'

writing problems stem mostly from the fact that they spend

their time watching T.V. rather than reading.    The solution?

Give them so much reading homework they have no time for the

T.V. set.

    Television really is bad news, and one of the best things

you can do for your students is to convince them not to watch.

Start by setting a good example.    Throw your own T.V. out.

After a few weeks, you'll never miss it--and you'll wonder how

you ever had time for it in the first place.

                              CHAPTER X



    Professor Peter Shattuck of California State University,

Sacramento, was once part of a state-wide committee on the

future of higher education.    At one point, each member of this

committee was asked what he hoped the classroom of the 21st

century would be like.    Most of the committee members talked

about technology.    Many talked of computers at every classroom

desk.   Some envisioned fascinating multi-media presentations of

course material.    Others talked about giving students access to

an information system so good that classroom meetings would be

unnecessary.   Professor Shattuck's comment was a bit different.

 He noted that, when he began his own college work, what one

typically found in the university classroom was someone who

knew quite a bit about a subject talking with those who knew

less, but wanted to learn.    He hoped that in the 21st century

university one would still find teachers who knew a lot about a

subject talking with groups of students who knew less, but

wanted to learn.

    Shattuck was quite right.     The only essentials for a solid

education are a good teacher and eager students.    Technology

may help motivate students or enable teacher and students to

work more efficiently, but it is no substitute for a caring,

dedicated teacher.   Nevertheless, there are technological

resources the social studies teacher should be prepared to use

when appropriate.

1. Computers

    Computers have an enormous potential for helping students

learn and review information.   Unfortunately, most of the

software available for social studies isn't very helpful.     The

problem is that too much software design effort goes into

graphics and sound and not enough into the factual content of

the program.   Typical is "Where in Time is Carmen San Diego?" -

-a program that's fun to play, but doesn't teach very much.

    Try to find simpler programs that emphasize content.      A

good program should emphasize important information rather than

trivia.   It should reinforce right answers immediately and

simply.   It should also force immediate correction of wrong

answers and provide a means for reviewing missed questions.

James B. Shick's Teaching History with a Computer, though out

of date, is worth looking at as a guide to effective software.

    Many of the latest programs are available on CD-ROM.

Unfortunately, CD-ROM is a very mixed bag.   As Selma Dunham, a

recent presenter at the Northern Conference on Teaching and

Learning put it, "When it's good, it's very, very good; but

when it's bad, it's horrid."

    When is it good?   When it's something like the Thesaurus

Linguae Graecae, a CD that contains everything that survives in

ancient Greek and makes it possible to accomplish in days what

once would have taken years.   When is it bad?    When graphics

and sound are placed ahead of content, i.e., most of the time.

    At the present time, the best software and CD-ROM packages

are those bundled with new textbooks and available as

supplemental materials through textbook publishers.    Many

publishers are putting entire texts on CD.    For a lot of

students, about the only advantage to a CD-based text is the

fantastic indexing this makes available.   For students with

reading disabilities, however, this is an absolutely tremendous

development.   A computer with a CD-ROM drive, speakers, and a

good sound card can   read   the text to the student as he or she

follows along--a great advantage for the struggling student.

    Of course, the old fashioned method of having a better

student or a parent read the text aloud    accomplishes the same

thing--and sometimes more effectively.    But the CD-ROM approach

allows students with reading disabilities more independence.

2. The Internet

    The Internet is probably the most useful and most

promising area opened up by new technology.    The World Wide Web

(WWW) is especially easy to use and helpful.     Through it, your

students can gain information that would be difficult to obtain

anywhere else. Unfortunately, the WWW isn't organized in any

logical way, and, unless your students know what they're doing,

they'll end up wasting a lot of time.    For that matter, even if

they do know what they're doing, they could end up wasting a

lot of time.

    The WWW is simply a way of hooking up all the information

people all over the world want to make accessible to others via

computer.   There is no "quality control," and much of what one

finds may be outdated, inaccurate, or offensive.    But there are

still some wonderful things you can find via the Web.    The main

trick is to know what kind of things the WWW is good for and

what kind of things it s not particularly good at.

    One excellent feature of the WWW is that it has made

easily available so many important works as electronic texts.

One can download everything from Jane Austen to Shakespeare and

from the Bible to Diderot's encyclopedia.

    The advantage to getting these texts via computer is that

one then has a super index.   For instance, if you want to know

what Voltaire thought about Diderot, you can find every mention

of Diderot in Voltaire's works.     If you want to know what Plato

had to say about love, you can find every mention of the word

love   in his dialogues.

    The Web is also very good when it comes to getting a wide

range of views on current events.    Infoseek s collection of top

stories ( is a great way of

keeping on top of breaking news.   Newspapers like the Boston

Globe and the Wall Street Journal have on-line editions.     It s

particularly great to be able to access over-seas newspapers

and to see what other countries are saying about events in

America.   There s a good set of news source links on the AP

wire (

    Getting information from the newspaper links is

particularly useful because there is at least a bit of quality

control.   One can have as much confidence in the Boston Globe s

on-line edition as one does in the newspaper itself.

    The Web is also a very good way to obtain government

information.   One can get the text of ballot initiatives from

Maine to California, economic data from the Treasury

Department, and demographic data from the Census Department.

    The Web is getting better and better at providing teaching

resources. It s well worth checking out the links in Social

Studies Sources ( and

the equally valuable History/Social Studies Website for K-12

Teachers (   You might

also find useful some of the links in the history/geography

sections of Study Web


    Unfortunately, the Web isn t yet an ideal place for one of

things history teachers would like it use it for the most:

historical research.    In many instances, the information one

wants isn t yet on the Web.    Just try, for instance, to find

accurate information on the history of Bangladesh.     And often

enough, when one does find information, it s hard to evaluate

the reliability of that information.

     The main problem with trying to do research on the Web,

however, is the problem of organization.     The information one

wants may very well be there somewhere, but finding that

information is another matter.    And most students (and

teachers) tend to approach the Web far too unsystematically.

The reason for this is clear enough.      The Web seems to be just

random information.    There s no Library of Congress or Dewey

Decimal system to tell you where to look, and no friendly

reference librarian either.    However, there are ways to bring

order to the chaos and to make one s searches much more

efficient?   How?   Let me recommend...


     The World Wide Web can give you something of the feel of a
garage sale. If you re looking for some particular thing,
you ll waste a lot of time. But if you re just poking around,
you may find some great stuff. But what if you do want
information on a specific topic? The magic of computer
technology just might help you find that particular needle in
the gigantic haystack that makes up the Web--and the better you
get at surfing, the easier it will be to find what you re
looking for. Some suggestions:

1.   Get to know several good search engines. Alta Vista
     (, Yahoo!
     ( Infoseek (,

     and Magellan ( are all worth
     trying out. Excite ( is also very
     good. I also find useful Metacrawler
     (, a search engine that
     compares search results from many other engines and
     collates the results for you.

2.   Read the instructions for the search engine you use. Most
     search engines follow pretty much the same conventions.
     For instance, placing a phrase in quotation marks usually
     causes the search engine to look for words in close
     proximity. Capitalizing usually causes the engine to
     treat adjacent words as a full name. Placing a "+" before
     the term means the term must be included for a source will
     be listed among the results. However, most searches have
     something unique about them that makes them particularly
     effective for a certain type of search. It s worth taking
     the time to learn those special features.

3.   Maintain an organized set of bookmarks. When you find a
     web site you might want to come back to another time, it s
     a good idea to save its location as a bookmark.    The
     problem is, that after you ve surfed the Web for week or
     two, you ll probably find your bookmark list too
     cumbersome to use easily. The best way to remedy this is
     to keep your bookmarks organized. Use the edit function
     to create categories for your bookmarks. Sort through
     your bookmarks from time to time and remove dead links.

4.   Take advantage of other people s lists of links. You can
     be sure that, whatever your main field of interest,
     someone on the Web has spent hours putting together a good
     collection of links and making them available on the Web.
      There s no sense reinventing the wheel: take advantage of
     their efforts (and drop them a note thanking them for the
     hours they ve saved you).

     If you re trying to do historical research, you might start
     with the well-organized set of history links in Resources for
     Historians ( Also very
     useful are the links listed on UC Riverside's History
     Department Home Page
     ( In addition, you
     can find a collection of links on my home page
     ( This site is badly
     organized and incomplete, but it s the only place you can get
     the complete texts of Love, Sex, and the Fragile Egos of
     Men, and Men, Women, and Other Mythological Creatures.

5.   Save the text in the right form. The default mode is best
     if you want to bring up graphics, but if you want text you
     can work with in Word Perfect or if you want to transmit
     the text via e-mail, switching to "plain text" often works

6.   Don t automatically print out all the information you
     find. It's often much more convenient to keep the
     information in electronic format where it can be
     manipulated easily.

7.   Avoid peak time. Internet searches tend to go much faster
     in the early morning, late evening, or weekends.

8.   Learn your navigator s features. The mysterious buttons
     on the tool bar often give you access to magical
     shortcuts. Using the go feature in Netscape, for
     instance, is often much quicker than using the back and
     forward keys.

9.   Turn off automatic image loading when searching. Many
     sites are hard to access because of needless fancy
     graphics added to them. Using the options feature to
     turn off automatic image loading will make your search
     much, much quicker. Unfortunately, you ll sometimes run
     into sites where you need the needs the images to
     navigate. A click on the images button will let you see
     the images on that page without your having to re-do your
     options and reload the page.

2. VCR's

     The advent of the VCR makes available to teachers

thousands of movies and news clips, and it's very tempting to

make considerable use of the VCR in the classroom.

Unfortunately, VCR's have one very great drawback: students

don't learn from video--at least they don't learn facts.

     When the VCR is turned on, students go into alpha-state

and simply absorb, but what they absorb is not information.     It

helps somewhat to give students study questions in advance and

to stop and discuss the material in the video every ten minutes

or so.    But no matter what you do, students still won't learn

very much from a video.

    What a video does affect is student emotions and

attitudes, and here it is a useful (though also dangerous)

tool.    Night and Fog will give students an unforgettable

impression of the holocaust.    Harvest of Despair will make

clear as nothing else can the horror of Stalin's dealings with

Ukraine.   Glory can reveal a side to the Civil War most

students wouldn't imagine for themselves.    Eyes on the Prize

can convey to students a feeling of what it was actually like

to be a part of the Civil Rights Movement.

    So when do you use videos?    When your objectives are

primarily affective, when what you care most about is students'

attitudes and emotions.

    One last word about videos.    It is unethical to show

students PG-13 and R rated movies without parental notification

and consent.   Hollywood's notion of what may require parental

guidance is none too strict, and teachers certainly shouldn't

have a lower standard.

3. Video Cameras

    While students tend not to learn much while watching

videos, they can learn a great deal when preparing their own.

Writing a screen play, putting together costumes and scenery,

rehearsing their parts, and recording a production combine to

provide a truly memorable learning experience.

4. Slides

    While slide photography is "old" technology, slide shows

can still be an effective teaching tool.    Slides do tend to be

soporific (though not nearly as much as videos), but this can

be overcome by asking students to interpret the slides and tell

you what they see rather than giving a straight lecture.

Slides are a good way to introduce students to the

investigation of primary source material.    In my World

Civilization class, for instance, I spend some time on slides

of Egyptian tomb paintings.   It's amazing the insights my

students gain about Egyptian society from these paintings.

They are able to act like true historians, drawing their own

conclusions about Egyptian values, farming practices, religious

beliefs, social structure, etc.

    One last comment about technology.     School boards and

federal programs tend to dump money into anything that's new.

As historians, part of our job is to stand up for what's old

and worth remembering.   Some of the new is good, but some of it

is outright dangerous.

                             CHAPTER XI

                   A MADNESS IN THEIR METHODS:

                       NEW TRENDS IN EDUCATION

         Few of us would run out to buy a laundry detergent

simply because it was advertised as new and improved.    We are

consumer-smart enough to know that such slogans tend to mean

nothing, at least when it comes to household products.

However, when it comes to education, many of us are less

discerning shoppers.    Whenever something new comes along, many

educators rush to get on the bandwagon--even when the benefits

of the new approach are far from certain.    Consider the

following story:


     Not long ago, Justin, a third grader, being bored in
class, made a mistake on a math problem. Ordinarily, the error
would have been quickly forgotten, but this error, for two
reasons, was not. First, Tiffany Steele noticed it and pointed
it out to all the other third graders. Second, the equation
was so simple that not even deficient first graders would have
missed the right answer. The equation was 2+2=[], and Justin
had answered "7." He didn't know why he had answered "7." He
just liked sevens, and he wasn't really thinking about what he
was doing. The entire class laughed at him for a full five
minutes. Crushed and humiliated, Justin determined never to
make the same mistake again.

     In fourth grade the equation 2+2=[] rarely appeared, but
when it did Justin was always sure to answer "4" since he had
learned quickly that any other answer was not only wrong but
criminal, even sinful. Or so it seemed.

     The next year Justin became so accustomed to equations
that he was no longer concerned about them. He had memorized
all his math facts and was careful to provide correct answers
whenever possible.

     One day a counselor visited the math class and announced
that the teachers were going to begin to take a more open view
of equations than they had previously. The counselor did not
say that it was all right to answer 2+2=[] with a seven, but he
did say that it was unhealthy to view equations as requiring
only one right answer. Although traditional answers would
still be preferred, he said, other answers would also be

     In sixth grade Justin's math teacher, Mr. Devarsity, began
to insist that innovative answers be given equal treatment with
standard answers. No longer would traditional answers be given
special status. Unequal treatment was plainly discriminatory.
 Justin understood the new policy to mean that 2+2=7 was just
as valid an equation as 2+2=4. Because he had trained himself
for so long to remember the right answers, however, he was
uncomfortable with the new laxity. It was a little unsettling
now to realize that the right answers were no longer
necessarily right.

     Mr. Devarsity told him privately that adjusting to new
ways of thinking often required time. "Just relax," he said,
"and accept." At the same time he made it clear that plus
signs "+" were no longer to be used in equations. Many people,
it seemed, had complained that the plus sign was much too
similar in shape to a religious symbol for it to be allowed in
public schools. The establishment clause clearly prohibited
the continued display of such a symbol in math classes. Mr.
Devarsity did not wish to be accused of promoting religion, he
said, so plus signs were to be replaced by circles.

     Justin was annoyed at this change. The circles really
looked out of place. Still, he understood the necessity of the
rule. He reluctantly began to write his equation as 2 0 2 = 7.

     Later in the year the principal, Ms. Xara Smith-Jones,
discussed new rules for writing equals signs. "The traditional
equals sign," she declared, "was constructed on a patriarchal
model. As you will notice by close observation, one bar of the
equals sign lies prone and helpless beneath the power and
dominance of the other. This kind of insensitivity in a symbol
that is supposed to represent equality and fairness will never

     The principal demanded the insensitive horizontal bars of
the equals sign "=" be replaced with harmonious, equitable,
vertical bars "ll." To distinguish the new equals sign from

the number "11" the number "11" would be replaced by the number
"18." Justin reluctantly complied, but would often mistakenly
use the numeral "11" by accident.
     Shortly after the principal's proclamation, Mr. Devarsity
began to talk about numeral values. He asserted that it was
wrong to expect numerals always to hold the same values. To do
so showed lack of imagination and a bent toward narrow-minded
thinking. There was, after all, no one right answer to
equations anymore. Everyone knew that. To believe there was
only one way of looking at the worth of a number was also
simplistic, and Mr. Devarsity wanted his students to know it.

     At first the students resisted the changes, and Justin was
beginning to get more than a little annoyed at all the
innovations. He and his peers stubbornly stuck to the standard
values of numbers and even reverted to presenting the old
symbols and equations. After a while, however, the students
began to see advantages in adopting the new view of
mathematics. Whenever they neglected their homework, they
simply scribbled a bunch of numbers on the page and turned it
in. Mr. Devarsity was quite pleased. He praised them for
their creativity and independent spirit.

     It was not enough, though, to allow numerals to hold
arbitrary values. If one wrote 0 0 0 ll 0, then obviously
zeros were over-represented in one equation, no matter whether
the zeros stood for 5, 3, or 162. The symbols themselves
needed to be expressed in an equal and fair way if equations
were to be truly equal. So new rules were invented by the
administration to make sure that no hint of inequality entered
equations. Before long, there was quite a list of rules for
ensuring that all symbols received equal use. Because of the
extensive memorization required, many students lost heart and
gave up mathematics altogether. They grew up to become
historians and English teachers. But Justin stuck with it. He
began to get a thrill from inventing more and more complex ways
of expressing what had once been simple equations.

     Justin whizzed through college, learning quickly that the
new principles that were applied to mathematics were easily
applied to other subjects as well. Once he learned terms such
as "implementation of categorized divergent thinking
processes" and "envisioning the empowerment of
resource-limited homogenous individuals" he plugged them into
his papers wherever necessary. After attaining degree upon
degree, he became curriculum superintendent for a large
California school district.

     All did not go well, however. Parents of students began
to complain about the curricula he was inventing.

     "Johnny doesn't even know that 2 + 2 = 4," mothers would
tell him.

     He would nod understandingly and throw out a few of the
phrases he had learned in college. Usually, his answers would
confound the parents enough to make them leave him alone.

     Meanwhile, Justin's ideas became the rage in education
circles. He became the country's most sought after speaker at
education conferences and symposia. Soon his ideas were
incorporated into the curricula of virtually every school in
the nation.

     Soon, though, airplanes began to crash throughout the
country. Drivers of cars would read into speed limit symbols
any value they liked, and car accidents increased dramatically.
 Nurses in hospitals interpreted thermometer readings any way
they wished, and patients died of infection at alarming rates.
 Bridges collapsed, buildings toppled, dams burst. Parents
blamed the chaos on Justin's curricula.

     Justin denied that his innovations had anything to do with
the current state of disarray in the country, but parents and
media were still livid. He tried to demonstrate that other
factors, and not the new curricula, were responsible for the
state of society, but no one paid any attention.

     "Our kids can't even add two plus two!" the parents

     At a loss, Justin visited the aging Mr. Devarsity, who
lived in a modest California retirement home.

     "The new attitudes are just too hard to explain to these
obtuse parents," he complained to his old mentor. "They don't
understand the benefits of open-minded thinking and creativity.
You and I know that only through the new curricula can students
approach math in a way that is tolerant and fair, but I can't
convince the public. I'm utterly frustrated."

     Mr. Devarsity pushed himself up in his bed, nodded wisely,
and smiled. He looked hard at Justin for a few seconds, and
then motioned for Justin to come near. It was clear that Mr.
Devarsity wanted to tell him something important, so Justin
leaned forward, close to Mr. Devarsity's mouth. The old

teacher whispered something, and Justin had to bend forward
even more to catch what he was saying.

    "Don't fight it.   Use it."

     It took Justin several days to cipher Mr. Devarsity's
message, but it was worth the effort when he finally
understood. At the next press conference, in the face of angry
crowds, he announced that, yes, there was a problem with math
education, and that, yes, the curriculum could be improved
greatly. The problem, he admitted, was very large indeed, and
things would continue to get worse, unless . . . unless
billions of dollars were immediately poured into education, and
especially into programs for developing new math curricula.

     The people were taken aback at this new approach.
Perhaps education was not a high enough priority in the budget.
 Perhaps they were expecting too much for the meager amount of
tax money allocated to schools. Perhaps investing a little
more revenue in curriculum development programs would improve
the quality of math education. Perhaps children would be
better able to grasp basic math concepts when schools could
afford quality math programs.
     Justin carried his point, and soon vast amounts of money
flowed into his curriculum development projects. Justin used
much of this new money to invent even more creative programs.
He instituted a thousand teacher training seminars.   He
developed colorful packaging plans.   He promoted his programs
at conferences and meetings. The more the money poured in, the
more Justin demanded. Obviously, curricula could not be
improved without a great deal of government support.

     In a few years, Justin became quite wealthy, though he
couldn't count his money. More than that, he knew that
fairness and equality were now a central part of a student's
education, and this knowledge gave him much more satisfaction
than money could ever provide.

                                   -- Donna Marmorstein

    Unfortunately, Justins and Mr. Devarsitys are common

figures in education circles, and even when a new trend sounds

good, the wise teacher approaches it with caution.   The social

studies teacher needs to be especially careful, since flaws in

  our methodology don't have the same obvious consequences as a

  faulty approach to mathematics.

          Here are my thoughts on a few of the most important

  current trends in education.      There are some valuable ideas in

  each, but also some real dangers.

  Outcome-Based Education

          Even the proponents of outcome-based education find it a

  bit hard to define.     Boschee and Baron's Outcome-Based

  Education begins by saying this:

          Outcome-based education is a student-centered, results-

          oriented design premised on the belief that all

          individuals can learn.   Outcome-based education is: a

          commitment to the success of every learner; a philosophy

          which focuses educational choices on the needs of each

          learner; a process for continuous improvement (Boshee and

          Barron, p.1).

          This is an admirable statement of principle, but it is

  hardly a satisfactory definition: any of a number of teaching

  philosophies match up to those standards.20

          Boshee and Barron are no more helpful as they describe the

  strategy of outcome-based education:

      Socrates would no more have been satisfied with this
definition than he was with the definition of Gorgias' profession
as "the noblest and best."

          What each student is to learn is clearly identified.    Each

          student's progress is based on demonstrated achievement.

          Each student's needs are accommodated through multiple

          instructional strategies and assessment tools.   Each

          student is provided time and assistance to realize his

          potential. (Boschee and Baron, p. 2)

          Once again, a good statement of principle, but one that

  fails to distinguish OBE from any other teaching method, except

  perhaps in the use of multiple strategies and assessment tools.

          So what does distinguish OBE?   Not its emphasis on clearly

  stated goals ("outcomes").     Teachers have been taught for years

  that good teaching depends on having clear objectives and on

  making sure one achieves those objectives. Not in its emphasis

  on results rather than process.     OBE is as process-oriented as

  any other method.21    OBE differs from earlier teaching

  strategies primarily in the way program objectives are created.

   What happens in outcome-based education is that goals are

  established "cooperatively."     What this translates to in real

  life is that the implementation of OBE requires an immense

      Consider, for instance, this example from a recent
workshop at Northern. Professors were asked how they would
respond to the question "What do you do at the college?" The
standard answer to the question, "I teach," was classified as a
process response. In its place was suggested a so-called
"outcomes" response, "I facilitate student learning." Obviously,
facilitating learning is every bit as much a process as teaching,
and what the whole exercise teaches is simply how to write
education jargon.

amount of committee work.

    OBE also has a tendency to translate goals into

educationese.   Boschee and Baron include these model objectives

for the what they call a purposeful thinker:

    1.   Uses strategies to form concepts, make decisions, and

         solve problems.

    2.   Applies a variety of integrated processes including

                      critical and creative thinking to

                      accomplish complex tasks.

    3.   Evaluates the effectiveness of mental strategies

         through meaningful reflection.    Demonstrates

         flexibility, persistence, and a sense of ethical

         consideration (Boshee and Baron, p. 42).

    I doubt very much that any classroom teacher would find

such goals helpful.   Further, in an OBE system, the classroom

teacher would probably be required to demonstrate their success

in producing these outcomes--a time-consuming and not very

worthwhile project.

    It's difficult to argue with the overall concepts behind

outcome-based education.    We ought to have a clear purpose for

what we teach and we ought to devise ways of telling whether or

not we are achieving our goals.    But if the implementation of

OBE turns us into paper-pushers rather than teachers, we ought

to resist its inroads every step of the way.

    One final note on OBE.   Proponents of OBE maintain that

outcome-based education is a necessary replacement of the

process-based educational system of the past.   Their criticisms

of process-based education are valid.   The problem is that OBE

itself tends to become process-based.   The real answer it seems

to me is content-based education.

Mastery Learning

    The implementation of OBE is often accompanied by what is

called mastery learning.   Mastery learning, a teaching style

advocated by researchers like Benjamin Bloom, has at its core

the idea that only mastery of basic concepts will prepare a

student to succeed in learning more advanced concepts.    A

student who has difficulties at an early stage of an

educational sequence will only have more difficulty if he/she

is passed on to the next level while still inadequately


    The problem is quite real.   Small differences in

achievement in the early grades get magnified with each passing

year, until by high school the gap between top achievers and

the bottom of the class is so great that it is almost

impossible to overcome.

    The solution, say the advocates of mastery learning, is to

make sure students absorb not merely some of the information

presented, but to master it before going on to further tasks.

The expressed goal is excellence for each student.

    Can the gap in achievement between talented students and

their less intelligent peers be decreased?    In some subjects,

and given enough resources, the answer appears to be yes.     In

the sciences, for instances, achievement appears to correlate

almost as much with motivation as it does with intelligence

(See, for instance Herbert J. Walberg's, "Examining the Theory,

Practice and Outcomes of Mastery Learning," in Improving

Student Achievement through Mastery Learning, p. 6).

    The problem with mastery learning is that it is very

difficult to implement in a way that will not adversely affect

some students.   Early experiments in mastery learning gave the

whole thing a bad name.   Teachers often tried to keep the whole

class together, waiting until all students had passed an exam

before going on to a new topic.   While this strategy did

produce gains in achievement for the bottom third of the class,

it held back the top achievers and drew the wrath of their


    Further, much of what passes for "mastery learning" isn't

even close to what the theorists advocated.   Many so-called

"mastery learning programs" simply involve giving the students

the same test over and over until they pass it.   But passing a

test one has seen before is no guarantee of mastery.   Each

repetition of a test is decreases the validity of the test, and

a perfect score on the tenth repetition of the test doesn't

mean the same thing as perfection on the first.

    Further, mastery learning as implemented can be extremely

frustrating to those students who are not well organized.    It

often involves a time-consuming shuffling of papers back and

forth from teacher to student, a process that results in many

lost papers and much wasted time redoing lost assignments.

    Additionally, mastery learning is designed to address a

problem that doesn't greatly affect the social sciences.    A

student who fails Algebra I is almost certain to fail Algebra

II, but a student who fails a world history course can earn an

"A" in U.S. history even if he/she never learns the material

from the former course.

    Besides, there is a simpler solution to the problem

mastery learning addresses: go back to placing students on

accelerated, average, and slower tracks.   Such grouping works

as well as anything else in helping students reach their

individual potentials, while "mainstreaming," the educational

rage of the 70's and 80's, correlates negatively with

achievement (Walburg, p. 7).

Collaborative/Co-operative Learning

    Collaborative learning stresses co-operation rather than

competition in the classroom.   Its advocates maintain that it

teaches some of the most important real-world skills: creating

  groups, working together with others, managing differences, and

  solving problems.     They maintain that such a teaching strategy

  improves self esteem and enhances achievement.

          Lots of group work and such strategies as peer counseling

  typify collaborative learning programs.     The real emphasis of

  collaborative learning, however, is on a fundamental re-

  thinking of the way we want students to react to each other and

  to us.

          Collaboration and cooperation are undoubtedly important

  skills.     Without them there would be no pyramids, no ocean

  liners, no cities, no civilization at all.     But do we really

  have to put more emphasis on these skills than traditional

  teachers did?     Maybe, and maybe not.   My guess is that we have

  already become too collaborative.

          Overemphasis on collaboration has become one of the worst

  wastes of teacher time in the schools today.     Extra committee

  meetings and paper work proliferate as administrators try to

  change from "authoritarian" to "collaborative" styles.22

          Collaborative learning in the classroom likewise tends to

  take more time than a traditional approach.     For example,

  instead of simply issuing rules for students, a teacher taking

      The irony is that a "collaborative" style of
administration leads to less autonomy for individual classroom
teachers and more interference in the nuts and bolts of the job.
 The proper role of an administrator is to give someone a clear
task, and then leave them alone so they can do it.

  a collaborative approach invites them to share in the making of

  the rules, a much more time-consuming operation.      Now, in some

  instances, this may turn out to be time well spent, but before

  one wholeheartedly embraces the collaborative approach, it is

  well to be aware of this potential problem.

          Another worrisome feature of the collaborative approach is

  the extreme hostility to competition between individuals.23

  The advocates of collaboration warn us not to have kids play

  musical chairs, keep away, or dodge ball (Susan and Tim Hill,

  The Collaborative Classroom, p. 114).     Games like Buzz have to

  be modified to avoid any "losers" (Hill, p. 122).

          It's not just competition the advocates of collaborative

  learning don't like.     There is within the movement also a

  strong dislike of traditional Western modes of thought.     In his

  Collaborative Learning, Kenneth Bruffee talks of a need to

  escape what he calls "the Procrustean bed of cognitive

  thought."     What this means is that traditional Western

  rationality stretches you to death if you are short and cuts

  off your head if you are tall.     He prefers, for some tasks at

  least, an entirely different thinking process.

          Behind Bruffee's objections to cognitive thought is an

  underlying philosophy often called post-structuralism.

      Competition between groups is not viewed quite so
negatively, and collaborative learning advocates sometimes
advocate the use of group competition as a motivator.

Essentially, the post-structuralists believe that knowledge is

socially constructed.   Reality is not "out there" for us to

discover, but is in fact invented by us (or at least by our

particularly community).   "Ultimate" reality (if there is such

a thing) is inherently unknowable: what we know is only what we

have constructed for ourselves.

    It should be clear that post-structuralism, whether right

or wrong, involves a radical challenge to traditional

epistemology and ultimately to all of our traditional ideas on

learning.    Above all, post-structuralism is incompatible with

Western religious thinking.    If there is a creator God, then

reality is what He has made, not what we construct for


    Certainly not all those who advocate collaborative

learning are post-structuralists.    Many of them probably don't

even know what post-structuralism is, and few of them

understand its implications.    But what many of them do share

with the post-structuralists is a dislike of the Western

tradition.   In fact, of all the new trends in modern education,

one of the most widespread is a desire to move away from the

traditional ideas of Western civilization and to replace them

with something else.    This tendency is most pronounced in what

is called multiculturalism.    Of all the new trends in

education, multiculturalism is the one that affects the social

 sciences the most, and it is by far the most important to



         The multiculturalist movement began as an attempt to

 address what its proponents believed is a serious problem in

 America, intolerance and bigotry.     American students, so the

 argument runs, are all the products of an intolerant society, a

 "Eurocentric" society that has systematically oppressed women,

 homosexuals, Native Americans, blacks, and all other non-white,

 non-African peoples.     Further, if these "Eurocentric" types are

 not checked, they will destroy the planet because of their

 disdain for nature.

         Typical of the multicultural movement is the attempt to do

 away with Western civilization courses.24    Not so long ago,

 most university students took two semesters of Western

 civilization as part of their general education requirements.

 No longer.     On most campuses, Western civilization has been

 replaced by something called world civilizations.     A victory

 for tolerance?     Not quite.

         For one thing, Western civilization courses were already

 pretty inclusive in the first place.     The typical Western

      At Stanford, my alma mater, this opposition reached fever
pitch a few years ago as crowds of multiculturalists protested
the Western civilization requirement. Their chant "Hey, hey, ho,
ho, Western Civ has got to go" gets to the heart of what
multiculturalism is all about.

  civilization course began with Egypt and Mesopotamia, spent a

  great deal of time on Greece and Rome, and then moved on to

  Byzantium, Islam, Medieval Europe, the Renaissance, the

  Reformation, the Enlightenment and finally to more recent


          What was left out?   Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and

  Asia.     Why?   Not because of Eurocentricism, but because of

  something far more simple.      History follows documents.    Without

  documentary sources you can do archeology or anthropology, but

  not history.      There are almost no documents from sub-Saharan

  Africa before the 17th century.      The same thing is true of the

  Americas: pre-Columbian written sources are rare, and, until

  recently, couldn't be deciphered.     While pre-Moslem India did

  produce documents, they were not of a kind from which one can

  write history.25

          Now what is the result of forcing historians to give equal

  attention to Africa, India, and South America?      For one, a

  tendency to shift away from antiquity (when there are few

  sources for these peoples) and toward recent history.        The

  other tendency is to shift away from documents, to start doing

  a bastardized anthropology instead of history.      Now neither of

      China and Japan, of course, did produce the kind of
written records useful to historians. However, for much of
their history, China and Japan were isolationist, and it is not
too surprising that these unique societies tended to be studied
in separate courses rather than as part of a history survey.

these trends makes people more likely to confront ideas

different from their own.   On the contrary, the modern world is

relatively homogenous.   Virtually no modern country contrasts

as much with our own experience as does Ancient Sumer or

Ancient Persia.   And whenever historians shift away from

documents, there is an even more insidious danger.    Invariably,

when people are not speaking for themselves through their

documents, we invent for them a history based on our own ideas

of what things should be like.

    One other problem is that to include these new topics,

something else must be left out.    The curricula is already too

full, there are already far too many requirements.    So what

gets left out or short changed?    The two main strands of

Western civilization, the classical tradition (our inheritance

from Greece and Rome) and the Judeo-Christian tradition (our

inheritance from the Hebrews).    It is these two traditions that

lie at the heart of Western civilization and that form the

ultimate foundations for our government, our educational

institutions, and our way of life.    And it is these traditions

that give us our traditions of tolerance and openness to new


    Consider first of all our legacy from the Greeks.     The

Greek achievement stands as the basis for much of our

civilization.   Our science, art, drama, poetry, political

science, philosophy, and history all stand on foundations laid

by the Greeks.   What kind of disciplines did the Greeks

establish?   Intolerant, closed-minded disciplines closed to new

ideas?    On the contrary, the Greeks borrowed freely everything

they could find that was good from other civilizations.     Their

literature shows an unusual sympathy with non-Greeks.      Hector,

not Achilles, is the most admirable character in the Iliad.

Greek history likewise displays an admiration for things non-

Greek, and an immense thirst for knowledge of the world beyond

their own doors.    In establishing political science, the Greeks

gave us the possibility of being objective in our analysis of

both our own and other people's governments.    Greek philosophy,

far from being Eurocentric, shows a readiness to question all

preconceptions and to get beyond cultural biases in an attempt

to find a universal truth.

    Was the Greek view of the world narrow and Eurocentric?

Hardly!   The Greeks were eclectic, picking and choosing the

best from many cultures.   The Greeks were syncretistic,

emphasizing what they had in common with other peoples rather

than differences.   Above all, the Greeks simply hungered for

knowledge about everything.

    These attitudes the Greeks bequeathed to the Romans.      The

Romans, perhaps even more than the Greeks, had a talent for

absorbing what was best from other cultures.   The Roman Empire

eventually included people for an incredible variety of ethnic

backgrounds--Greeks, Syrians, Egyptian, Celts, Italians, Arabs-

-and they made the mix work.    Further, while Roman ancestry was

at first an essential of high social status, by the third

century an Arab, several Syrians, and even a Carthaginian had

risen to the position of emperor.

    The Romans, like the Greeks, showed no hesitation in

admiring the strengths of their enemies.    Hannibal, the great

enemy of Rome, gets every bit his due in Livy's great account

of the second Punic War.   In his Germania, Tacitus insists that

the Germans were better than the Romans in regard to sexual

morality, bravery, and attitude toward money.    Indeed, Tacitus

uses the Germans more or less as a club to batter into his

Roman readers' heads a sense of their own moral decay.

    Tacitus doesn't hesitate to point out the problems with

the Germans either, noting their lack of discipline and lack of

physical stamina.   The multiculturalists would accuse Tacitus

of judging people by his own standards.    Well, that's clearly

not what Tacitus thought he was doing.

    Tacitus, like other Romans, realized that certain

standards were culture bound.    He noted that the Germans had

different religious ceremonies from the Romans, and was firm in

his insistence that they were not to be condemned just for

these cultural differences.     But Tacitus also believed that in

some areas there was a higher standard by which the conduct of

all nations could be judged, a standard which we, and some of

the Romans themselves, call the jus gentium, the law of


    And here is the crux of the argument between those who

embrace multiculturalism and those who don't.   Is there such a

standard?   Is there a universal measurement by which all people

can be judged?   The traditional Western answer has been yes,

insisting that what we have in common as human beings is more

important than minor external differences.   Diogenes proclaimed

that he was "cosmopolites," a citizen of the world.   Terence

wrote, "I am a man, nothing human is alien to me."

    Multiculturalism sounds like it is saying the same thing,

but in actuality it is just the reverse.   Multiculturalism says

that we do not necessarily have anything in common, that there

is no core of common standards one can expect from all.   And

ultimately, multiculturalism respects no culture, serving

primarily as an excuse to ignore what the great teachers of all

civilizations have held most important.

    One thing that should be apparent to anyone who studies

history is that the great moral teachers all thought pretty

much alike.   If you follow faithfully the moral teachings of

Buddha, Plato, Confucius, Moses, Christ, or Zoroaster, you end

up living pretty much the same kind of life, and you end up a

reasonably good person.    What do the great teachers think we

should do?    What do they think we should avoid?    The

traditional lists of seven cardinal virtues and seven deadly

sins represent pretty much a consensus.

  The Seven Cardinal Virtues            The Seven Deadly Sins

            Faith                                 Pride
            Hope                                  Wrath
            Love                                  Envy
            Prudence                              Sloth
            Justice                               Lust
            Temperance                            Gluttony
            Fortitude                             Avarice

    Now consider what the multiculturalists would do with such

a list.    The seven cardinal virtues are gone.    In their place,

one cardinal virtue: tolerance.    The seven deadly sins are

gone.   In their place, one deadly sin: intolerance.       It is

incredible how much this new system of values is being drummed

into our heads.    Education conferences, television programs,

political speeches, and newspaper editorials are constantly

harping on this one theme.

    Why?     Because tolerance is easy, far easier than any of

the old virtues.    It's easier to be tolerant than to control

your lust.    It's easier to be tolerant than just.    It's easier

to be tolerant than brave.    It's easier to be tolerant than

faithful.    And most of all, it's easier to be tolerant than to


    The two traditions on which Western civilization stands

are both hard.   True Christianity is hard.    It asks for

everything, one's entire life, and frequently it goes against

our natural bent.   It calls for sacrifices few are willing to

make, though they know they ought to make them.

    The classical tradition is hard too.      It also calls for

high standards, a discipline of mind and body that few are

willing to undergo.

    To be truly faithful to either tradition may cost you your

life.   Christ and Socrates both died as criminals, and if you

follow Christ or Socrates to the full you almost always end up

in trouble.

    Thus both traditions tend to breed hypocrisy--a tendency

to give lip service to standards that we don't actually follow

in practice.   We are in many ways a nation of hypocrites.    But

having these standards has made us better than we would be

otherwise, and, shabby as our record is in some areas, it is

better (at least relatively speaking) than the history of

almost any other nation on earth.

    "How can you say that?" the multiculturalists are

screaming, "Didn't we force the Japanese into prison camps in

WWII?   Wasn't there constant persecution and hatred of the

Chinese?   Haven't we persecuted and mistreated every ethnic

group that has come to this country, including Catholics and

Jews, the Poles and the Irish, the Puerto Ricans and the

Koreans?   Haven't we slammed the door countless times on

unwelcome immigrants, and done so largely on the basis of race

or religion?"

    Well, yes.   But we are also the nation that has in the

harbor of our greatest city a statue with the words, "Send me

your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe

free."   And we are also the nation that has put together a

unified, relatively harmonious, and exceedingly prosperous

society out of the most diverse mix of peoples imaginable.

    True it is that we can do better, but not by rejecting the

entire cultural heritage of Western civilization.   Sir Isaac

Newton, one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, once

observed, "If I have seen a little farther than other men, it

is only because I stood on the shoulders of giants,"

acknowledging that his own great achievements were possible

only because of the labors of those who had preceded him.

    As history and social studies teachers, it is our role to

pass on the great intellectual, moral, and spiritual heritage

of Western civilization, to help our students to stand on the

shoulders of the great men and women who have gone before them.

 If we succeed, they may indeed see farther than earlier

generations, farther than we can see ourselves.   And we will

have turned our discipline into what it truly should be, the

most wonderful, most interesting, most exciting, and most

important of all subjects.


               YIP, YIP, YIP, YIP, YIP, YIP, YIP, YIP

                    MMM, MMM, MMM, MMM, MMM....

                           GET A WHAT????

            So you know how to build effective relationships in

the classroom.    You re an expert student   race course

designer.    You ve got the best collection of shtick and tricks

since Laurel and Hardy.    You re a master at thinking up games

and activities for keeping the classroom lively.     You know the

art of turning dull facts into fascinating stories.     You can

get students so involved in talking about important things that

they don t even notice the bell that s supposed to end the

class.   Not only that, you can do a first-rate job figuring out

various means of measuring student progress.      You can use the

latest technological innovations to full advantage in the

classroom     Further, you re on top of all the new trends in

education, and you can separate the useful from the merely

fashionable.    But you re still lacking one thing, and without

that one thing, all of the rest won t do you any good.     That

one thing?

    A job.

    Yep.     There are plenty of people out there teaching junior

and senior high school students, leading lectures and

discussions, assigning and grading papers and all the rest...

  and they don t have any more talent for it than you do.   But

  there is the one thing they ve got, that you haven t got...

         And, unfortunately, there s not much in this bag of mine

  that s going to help you.   But wait!   What s this?   Yes!

  There s still...

                     DR. ART S NO-GUARANTEE GUIDE

                       TO JOB HUNTING SUCCESS26

      A much more helpful source for job hints is the Job
Search Handbook for Educators, available at most teacher
placement offices or from the American Association for Employment
in Education (820 Davis Street, Suite 222, Evanston Illinois
60201-4445, phone: 847-864-1999).

          Unfortunately, getting that first teaching job can be a

  rather difficult process.     For more than thirty years, teaching

  jobs in social studies have been fairly hard to come by.     Any

  big district will have dozens of applicants for any opening.

  Even the smaller schools may have fifty applicants for any open

  social studies job.     The most recent statistics indicate that,

  at the national level, the relative demand for social studies

  teachers is less than the demand for any other academic


          Now this doesn t mean that it s impossible to get a job

  teaching history and social studies.     But it does mean that

  you ll probably have to apply to lots of different places and

  that you ll have to make yourself     marketable,   i.e., something

  more than a warm body with the appropriate teaching credential.

   So how is it done?

      The American Association for Employment in Education
handbook rates demand for social studies teachers as at 1.94 on a
five point scale. Demand for other disciplines is considerably
greater. Most special education degrees have a demand rating
higher than 4.0. Math and science fields have demand ratings
from 3.49 (general science) to 4.05 (physics). There is
apparently more demand for teachers of instrumental music (3.07),
French (3.10) and English (2.61) than for history teachers. Why
the surplus? Mostly because college students want to major in
the disciplines that produce social scientists: psychology,
sociology, political science, economics, and history are all
popular fields of study, and if one majors in one of these areas
and also wants to teach high school--well, social studies seems
to be the best bet. That s the problem with being in the most
wonderful, most interesting, and most exciting area of study:
everybody else wants to be there too.

  1. Make yourself marketable.

          One would think that academic excellence would be the

  number one key to a good teaching job.     A student who has

  maintained a high GPA throughout college should have the edge

  in getting a job over a poor student.     However, this isn t

  inevitably the case. The NEA did a survey several years ago and

  found that, on average, those who were hired for teaching jobs

  that particular year had lower GPA s than those who failed to

  find jobs.     The NEA s explanation: administrator s don t like

  teachers who are smarter than they are.     Maybe so, but my guess

  is that the study was flawed and that, other things being

  equal, good students do have a slight edge.28    Nevertheless, it

  seems that other things carry more weight than academic

  excellence in determining who gets teaching jobs--and, in some

  cases, perhaps deservedly so.

          One of the things that does seem to greatly increase

  marketability is experience working with kids.     If you ve

  served successfully as a substitute teacher, a teacher s aide,

  a tutor, a Boys     Club volunteer, a Scout leader, a Sunday

  school teacher, or a coach, you re more attractive as a

      When evaluating your academic record, employers are
frequently most interested in the general trend of that record.
A student who starts with a 1.5 GPA but who later does A and B
work shows that they are moving in the right direction, and most
employers are quick to overlook the slow start. However, a
student who started out with a 4.0 GPA but whose grades dip to
2.5 by their final semester looks like a poor risk.

potential employee than you would be otherwise.   Youth-oriented

volunteer work especially shows that you are the kind of person

who enjoys working with kids and who will make a dedicated


    Perhaps as important in making yourself marketable is

versatility.   Few schools can afford to hire someone who does

nothing but teach on subject.   Someone certified to teach

English, biology, or mathematics as well as social studies

makes a more attractive candidate than one who can teach only

their specialty.   Also important is a willingness to help out

with extra-curricular/co-curricular activities.     Coaching

certification is often an advantage, but schools are also

looking for student government advisors, debate coaches, driver

training instructors, yearbook coordinators, etc.    Local

administrators tell me that, right now, it s the journalism and

yearbook assignments that are hardest for them to fill, and

preparing yourself to help out in these areas may give you an

edge when looking for a job.

2. Know where to look.

    Most school districts tend to emphasize primarily their

home state when advertising positions.   Standard procedure is

to send position announcements to all state institutions with

teacher education programs, and for in-state jobs the first

place to check is the placement center on your home campus.      In

South Dakota, most job openings are listed with the South

Dakota Teacher Placement Center (Box 1059, Pierre, SD 57501,

phone: 605-224-6978).    For a very reasonable fee ($30.00 per

year), SDTPC will send you a list of all job openings listed

through their service.   A few other states still have similar

services, but, for some reason, there are not as many state

placement services as there used to be.

    Somewhat surprisingly, there is not yet a WWW site that

lists teaching openings across the country.   You can try

finding jobs through America's Job Bank (

or other guides (   Positions in higher

education are listed on the Chronicle of Higher Education home

page (   However, for the time

being, such searches won t help very much.    The Academic

Employment Link ( is a

promising site, and may eventually be helpful.   But for right

now, the best ways of finding out-of-state jobs are: 1)

checking the out-of-state listings at your campus placement

center, 2) attending one of the larger job fairs, and 3)

finding a teacher-placement center in the state you want to

move to that will allow you to subscribe to their job-listing

service.   In most cases, the state university placement centers

are good places to start.

3. Have an attractive, current resume ready to go.

         Students know that, no matter how well-qualified they

  might be, they are not going to get very far in the job-search

  process without an effective resume.        It s no surprise that

  resume- writing workshops and handouts on putting together an

  effective resume are quite popular.

         The trouble is that no one can really tell you how to

  write a good resume.      Sure, there are some basic rules.   Be

  sure there are no misspelled words or grammatical mistakes.

  Print your resume on high-quality paper.       Limit the resume to

  one or two pages.      Include current contact numbers for your

  references (both work and home phone numbers, if possible).

  Don t bother with professional resume services, but do make

  your resume as professional-looking as you can.

         Beyond that, however, it s rather difficult to say what

  should and should not go into a resume, and there are certainly

  few    rules    for success--with good reason.

         Your resume represents you.    It reflects (or at least it

  should reflect) your personality, your character, and your

  abilities.      It s best to think of your resume as something of a

  self-portrait, a sort of      Portrait of the Artist as a Young

  Teacher.       Here s a portion29 of my   self-portrait :

      Candidates for positions in post-secondary education are
expected to submit more extensive documentation of their
preparation than are candidates for secondary-school positions.
Even the portion of my c.v. that I include here would be much too
long were I applying for a high school level position.

                       ARTHUR R. MARMORSTEIN

Department of History                          1115 S. Kline
Northern State University                      Aberdeen, SD
Aberdeen, SD 57401                              (605) 229-2713
(605) 626-2608


      Ph.D., History, University of California, Davis, August
      1988. Dissertation: Eschatological Solutions to Ethical
      Evangelistic Dilemmas in the Ante-Nicene Church.     Advisor:
      Dr. Stylianos Spyridakis.

      Master of Arts, History, California State University,
      Sacramento, January 1986.

      Bachelor of Arts, Drama, Stanford University, April 1974.


     Major field: Ancient History
     Additional teaching fields: Medieval History, New


      Assistant Professor/Associate Professor, Department of
      History, Northern State University, 8/88-present.

     I teach on a regular basis History 121 (Survey of World
     Civilization to 1600), History 122 (Survey of World
     Civilization from 1600 to the Present), and upper-division
     seminars in Greek, Roman, and Early Church history.
     Additional courses taught in past semesters include:
     152 (U.S. History from 1877 to the Present), Social
     480 (Special Methods for Secondary Social Studies
     Educational Foundations 475 (Human Relations), and IDL 199
     (College Success).


      "What's In a Date?   The Collision of Mythological

     and History." Funded by a National Endowment for the
     Humanities Summer Study Grant. Summer 1995.



     "The Impact of the Frontier on the History of the Church."
     Northern Great Plains History Conference, Fall 1993.

     "Shtick and Tricks: The Easy Road to Teaching Stardom."
     Northern Conference on Teacher Education, August 1993.

     "Classrooms Full of Stars: Theater Games Across the
     Curriculum." Northern Conference on Teacher Education,
     August 1994.

     "Socrates Gets What He Deserves."   Northern Conference on
     Teacher Education, August 1995.

     "Did Wishing Make it So? Prophecy, Propaganda, and
     Political Change in Rome and Persia." Northern Great
     History Conference, Fall 1995.

     "Stand Up and Shake the Hand of Someone You Can't Stand:
     Tolerant Bigotry in America." South Dakota Humanities
     Conference, Fall 1995.
     "Excellence: Is it Worth the Effort?" Hoven High School
     Graduation, Spring 1996.

     "Helping Students Make History: The Term Paper as a Work
     Art."   Northern Conference on teacher Education, Fall

     On Campus Presentations:

     "Love, Sex, and the Fragile Egos of Men."    InterVarsity
     Christian Fellowship, Fall 1993.

     "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People."   InterVarsity
     Christian Fellowship, Spring 1994.

     "Dragons, History Professors, and Other Hazards of College
     Life." Lutheran Student Organization, Fall 1995.

         "Cheated, Lied to, Stepped on and Broken: How Education
         Fails Students." Dorm Presentation, Spring 1995.

         "How Many Light Bulbs Does it Take to Change a Hypocrite?"
         InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Spring 1995.

         "Is America Still the Land of Opportunity?"   Horizons Noon
         Forum, Fall 1995.

         "Welfare Reform: What Can and Should Be Done?"   Horizons
         Noon Forum, Spring 1995.

         "Educational Excellence: Is it Worth it?"   Phi Eta Sigma
         Banquet, Spring 1995.

         "The Death of Love."   Dorm Presentation, Spring 1996.

         "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?"   InterVarsity Christian
         Fellowship, Spring 1996.

         "Why Not Inhale?"   Dorm Presentation, Fall 1996.

         Any prospective employer should be able to get a pretty

    good picture of what kind of teacher I am from the above.     They

    can easily determine both my primary teaching areas and my

    ability to work outside my specialty.   In addition, the titles

    of my various presentation convey a lot about the type of

    person I am: what I value, how I relate to people, what sort of

    things I find funny, etc.

         Here s a resume I helped a former student put together

    (names and identifying features modified):

                              A. GOOD-STUDENT
                               11 NW First St.
                             Anywhere, SD 111111
                                (111) 111-1111


  Bachelor of Arts, Geography major, Russian minor, University of
   South Dakota, Brookings, South Dakota, December 1985 (GPA 3.68).

  Thirty semester hours toward Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary
  Social Sciences major, Northern State University (G.P.A. 3.90)

  Minnesota Secondary Teaching License, Social Studies (All), June


  Substitute Special Education Program Assistant, Minnesota State
  Academy for the Blind, Faribault, MN. September 1991--present.

  Substitute Teacher, Faribault, Northfield, Owatonna and Medford
  School Districts, October 1990--present.

  Resource Counselor, QSS Incorporated, Faribault, MN. Responsible
  for program implementation and household management in an ICF/MR
  facility for six adults. January 1991--December 1991.

  High School Teacher, Aberdeen Peripheral High School, Aberdeen, SD.
   Subjects taught: government, American history, world history,
  geography, psychology, and economics. Developed and implemented
  complete curriculum plan for geography and psychology courses
  including visual aids, demonstrations, and student activities.
  Compiled a personal library of resource texts for students in
  history and political science. 1988--1989.

  Self-employed Businessman. Ran a building maintenance and painting
   business, "The House Doctor." Work included plumbing, carpentry,
  roofing, electrical repairs, and assistance to property managers.
   Aberdeen, SD. 1986--1990.

  Security and Building Operation Monitor, Weld County School
   District 6. Full-time operation of computerized security and HVAC
  system for twenty-three building school district. Greeley, CO.

  Mental Retardation Counselor, Midwest Children's Home. Work
  included implementation of IHP's, behavior modification programs,
  supervision of activities, van driving, and cooking in a eighteen-
  bed ICF/MR facility. Longmont, CO. 1975--1982.


  --25 years of piano study
  --Geography and history curriculum development



  Teacher, adult and high school Bible classes (1987--present).
  Reader and Recorder for visually handicapped (1981--1983).
  Severe Weather Spotter and Reporter (1983--present).
  Russian Tutor (1980--1982).


  Dr. I.M. Boring
  Executive Director
  Ministry of Truth
  Aberdeen, SD 57401
  (605) 229-2713
  (605) 626-2608

  Dr. I.M. Unavailable
  Professor of Fuzzy Studies
  Northern State University
  Aberdeen, SD 57401
  (605) 111-1111

  Rev. I.B. Leave
  First Buy and Save Church
  Oildale, ND 11111
  (701) 111-1111

  Additional references and placement file available from Career
  Development Center, 206 Lincoln Hall, Northern State University,
  Aberdeen, SD 57401, 626-2371.

         In my opinion, the above is a very impressive resume.

  However, when I contacted Mr. Good-Student for permission to use

  his resume in this book, he reminded me that it didn t get him a

  job.    Well, I told you that there were no guarantees.

  4. Write an effective cover letter.

     Just as no one can really tell you how to write a good

resume, no one can tell you how to write an effective cover

letter.    The basic   cover letter   rules are pretty much the same

as those for a good resume.     Be sure there are no misspelled

words or grammatical mistakes.     Print your cover letter on high-

quality paper.    Limit the cover letter to one page.

     Beyond that, your pretty much on your own.

     The cover letter, like the resume, is something of a self-

portrait.    However, what you want to convey in the cover letter

is not your overall teaching ability but why you are particularly

good candidate for the particular position offered.     How do you

do this?    Well, do your homework.   Get as much information as you

can on what the position you re applying for entails.     Find out

what s special about that particular school.     Learn something

about the surrounding community.      As you do this, you ll find

certain things about the job, the school, and the community that

you really like30.     These are the things to emphasize in a cover


     Suppose, for instance, a school is searching for an 8th

grade U.S. history.     The search committee will typically give

extra attention to applicants whose cover letters mention their

previous experiences with junior high age students and explain

      If you don t, your probably shouldn t waste your time
applying for that particular job.

why they would enjoy working with eighth graders.   Appropriate

cover letters might include statements like,    As a coach and

workshop leader, I ve worked extensively with young teenagers,

and I ve loved every minute of it.   I love their energy, their

creativity, and their growing sense of independence.     Another

effective cover letter might say something like,    I know the

difference a caring teacher can make, and I d love the chance to

help students through the difficult early teenage years.

     Much of the time, your search committee is going to be

concerned with how well you can overcome the stereotype of social

studies as a boring subject.   Can you make social studies

interesting?   Can you make social studies relevant?   The

suggestion that you can in a cover letter is one thing that my

secure you a bit of extra attention.

     In some ways, your cover letter conveys even more of your

personality than your resume does.   Should you be careful not to

reveal too much about yourself?   Not at all.   You may be working

with the people who hire you for the next thirty years, and if

your personality is a bad match for theirs, you probably don t

want that position anyway.31

5. Choose your references carefully.

     One of the frustrating things about being on a search

      It s always intrigued me that I have better luck getting
interviews when my wife writes the cover letters for me. Any
guesses why?

committee these days is that letters of reference are so

unreliable.    Almost no-one is willing to give you a full picture

of the candidate.    Writers emphasize the candidates strengths,

but not their weaknesses.    Even worse, they often talk about non-

existent strengths.     We ve brought candidates to campus on the

basis of recommendations that described them as     dynamic,    and

 energetic,    only to find that they should have been described as

 lifeless,    and   dull.

     Just about every secondary school administrator I talk to

has been burned in the same way.    As a result, they don t pay as

much attention as they might to references from your college

professors.    They know that the professors have a vested interest

in seeing their graduates get teaching positions, and that they

will consequently write glowing recommendations for students who

don t deserve them.32

     How do you get references that count?     Well, do ask one or

two of your professors to write references for you.    But it s

probably more valuable to have letters from: 1) the cooperating

teacher with whom you worked during your student teaching

experience, and 2) former employers (provided, of course, you

were a reliable employee).    You might also find letters of

reference from pastors or community leaders helpful.

      And, of course, then we wonder why those we regard as our
best students are finding it difficult to compete in the job

    If you include all of the above, you ll end up over the

three-letter   limit   that most students think applies to their

placement files.    But there s no magic to having exactly three

letters in your file, and having four or five letters may work

out better--as long as the letters are recent.

6. Prepare a professional-looking teaching portfolio.

    One way of setting yourself apart from the other applicants

for a position is to prepare a teaching portfolio.    A good

portfolio can demonstrate both your creativity and your ability

to organize.    It can clarify your teaching philosophy and your

teaching style.    Most important, it can show how, maybe better

than any other way, how you relate to students.

    There are no hard and fast rules for what should and should

not be in a teaching portfolio.    About the only real requirement

 for a portfolio is that it be well organized and interesting.

You should probably start with a table of contents.    You should

probably include a clear statement of your teaching philosophy, a

sample lesson plan, and a copy of your resume.    You might also

include copies of your reference letters and     your college

transcript.    If I were the one examining your portfolio, I d be

looking especially for evidence of long-term planning: course

syllabi, unit plans, semester plans, etc.    There are plenty of

other things you might include.    Photos of one of your classes

 in action,    (i.e., putting together home-made relief maps,

exploring an important issue with theater game, or holding a mock

convention) can be particularly effective.    If you re planning to

help with extracurricular activities, include documentation of

past experiences.   If you re planning on coaching, include

diagrams of your favorite plays, or your plan for a workout

season.   If you re planning on helping direct plays, include a

production schedule.   Ever put together a handbook for any youth

activity?   Include it in your portfolio.

     Preparing an effective portfolio can be a lot of work, but

you ll find that the time is well spent.    Even if your potential

employers never look at your portfolio (and some won t), you ll

find that process of preparing the portfolio will help you

clarify in your own mind why you want to teach.    It will help you

recognize your own strengths as a teacher.    It will help bring to

mind your most important experiences working with kids.    These

are exactly the kind of things you need to be prepared to talk

about when you walk into a job interview.

     In addition, the portfolio has some other advantages.

Dropping by a portfolio is a good excuse for making an extra

face-to-face contact prior to the interview.33    The portfolio can

also be useful during the interview itself.    If you re asked how

      It s probably best to drop your portfolio a day or two
before your interview. Search committees often don t have much
time to examine the material in it during the interview itself.
However, it may also be effective to simply leave the portfolio
with the search committee at the end of an interview.

you would go about making your social studies class interesting,

it s great to have in your portfolio a few photos of students

having working on a history project or a sample historical

 newspaper   produced by one of your classes.

7. Be yourself at the job interview.

    If you get to the interview stage, it s likely enough that

the search committee has already decided that you re qualified

for the job.    Your academic record is good enough, your

certification is appropriate, and you ve enough experience

working with kids.       They may have a doubt or two about a couple

of things (Why is there a two year gap on your resume?      Why did

you get a only a     C    in World Civilization II?), but clarifying

this type of thing isn t the real purpose of the interview.       Most

often, the main thing the search committee is trying to figure

out is how well you will fit in.      Will you be an amiable

colleague?   Will you be able to relate well to the community?

Will you be able to supply some of what they sense is missing in

their school?     Above all, will you be able to relate well to the

kind of students they have at that particular school?

    No matter how desperate you are for a job, the best policy

here is honesty.    Be yourself.

8. Follow up each step of the job-search process appropriately.

    Professors don t always write the recommendations they ve

promised.    Job applications sometimes get misplaced or misfiled.

 Murphy s law applies to job searches every bit as much as to the

rest of life.   It s worth a bit of extra time to make sure you

get a chance to correct job-search problems before it s too late.

     It s important to check with your placement office to make

sure that all the recommendation letters you asked for are on

file.   If not, go back to the recommenders and ask if they

wouldn t mind sending another copy of the recommendation to the

center.   This will usually get things rolling, but sometimes

you ll have to find an alternative reference.

     It s also worth checking with any potential employer to make

sure your application materials are complete.   A call right

before the closing date can be particularly effective.     It helps

the search committee know that you are a serious candidate, and

it may make your application stand out just a bit more.

     Another important part of follow-up is the writing of thank

you notes.   I ve appreciated the thank-you notes I ve received

from candidates we ve interviewed even when I knew they were just

a job-search formality.   I ve appreciated even more the    thank-

you s   I get from students who have just been hired for their

first teaching job.

     And that reminds me of some thank-you s long overdue on my


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